LAKEWOOD RANCH, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 18: Zecheng Dou of China reacts on the 15th green during the second round of the LECOM Suncoast Classic at Lakewood National Golf Club Commander on February 18, 2022 in Lakewood Ranch, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Back-to-back 7-under 64s put Marty Zecheng Dou atop the leaderboard at the LECOM Suncoast Classic while Korea’s Byeong Hun An stayed in contention with a tidy 66 on Friday.

Play was suspended due to darkness with one player still finishing the second round, but Dou secured a two-stroke lead over Davis Thompson (12-under par) and a three-stroke advantage over 10 players tied at 11-under par.

The round of the day was carded by LECOM ambassador, Callum Tarren, who broke the 18-hole tournament scoring record and course record Friday with a 10-under 61 on Lakewood National Golf Club’s Commander course.

Dou, a Henan, China native who plays from Beijing, opened his second round with a birdie on the par-5 10th, and followed it with two more at the par-3 13 and par-4 18th prior to the turn. On his back nine, Dou made five birdies (Nos. 1, 4, 6, 7 and 9) against one bogey at the par-4 second.

An, who lost his PGA TOUR card last season, made six birdies and one bogey to lie three back of Dou in tied third place as he chases his first Korn Ferry Tour win.

“Solid tee shots and my iron shots are great,” Dou said of his play this week.

“I made some good putts. One three-putt today, one-three putt yesterday, but it was just those mistakes that you would have leaving yourself a couple 50-footers, but I’ve been playing really consistent.”

A two-time past champion on the Korn Ferry Tour, Dou has fully exempt status for a third consecutive season after he finished 33rd in the 2020-21 Regular Season Points Standings.

In four starts this season, Dou already has two top-fives, including a solo second at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club, where he held the outright 54-hole lead but played the final three holes of regulation at 2-over par and ultimately lost to Brandon Harkins on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff.

“It was a good experience,” Dou said. “Getting into a playoff is a good week. You finish solo second, it’s not like something bad came up. From the beginning, if you know you’re going to finish second alone, you’re going to be happy.”

Dou bounced back and secured a T5 the following week at The Panama Championship. The hot streak cooled off a few days later as Dou missed the cut at the Astara Golf Championship presented by Mastercard, but he took advantage of the unexpected extra time off.

“I flew back right after I missed the cut on Saturday,” Dou said. “It was going to be a really tough flight after you’ve played four rounds in Bogota, and I was going to be taking the redeye on Monday. I changed it to Saturday and got in [to Lakewood Ranch] really early, and I’m staying at my friend’s place this week right by No. 9 green. I feel really comfortable coming out here. I know it’s the fifth week, but after those couple of days it feels like I’m back to the start.”

A comfortable Dou found his sixth round of 64 or better across 284 career Korn Ferry Tour rounds. Three of the four previous tournaments where Dou shot a 64 or better, he finished top-10, including his first win at the 2017 Digital Ally Open.

The win propelled Dou to a top-25 finish in the regular season standings, enabling he and countryman, Xinjun Zhang, to become the first mainland Chinese golfers in history to earn PGA TOUR cards.

Dou’s second victory came at the 2019 The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay. At the end of that season, however, Dou found himself outside The 25 after 15 missed cuts in his other 23 starts.

Hoping to find a third win this weekend, Dou feels it’s close with the confidence he holds in his game. “This year has been a little different for me. I come out here and feel like I’m really confident in my game,” Dou said.

“In past years, I’d have one good finish then stay off for a couple of weeks and then another good finish. It was like bumping back and forth. This year, I just feel like my game is ready to go. Every week has been the same for me and good golf is coming out. I just want to keep it that way.

“Heading into the weekend, I’ll be more relaxed and comfortable… nothing much on the mind, just play like usual and hopefully they’ll be some good scores coming out.

An, who was part of the 2019 International Team at the Presidents Cup, was delighted with his round. He said: “Felt like a I played a lot worse and I still shot a 5-under. In the morning, the ball was a bit wet and it was hard to judge the distances but overall, I’m pretty happy. I still have to compete against 140 players out there, and still have to beat those guys and win out here. It’s hard to say the level of competition as it’s still pretty high. I played decent in Bahamas and Panama and still missed the cut, so I need to play decent to finish top-10 or top-5.”

Norman Xiong, a Monday qualifier and the only player without a complete second round, will resume play at 7 a.m. ET. Third-round tee times will run from 7:45 a.m. through 12:15 p.m. ET.

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