PALM HARBOR, FLORIDA – MARCH 22: K.H. Lee of South Korea plays his shot from the ninth tee during the second round of the Valspar Championship at Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club on March 22, 2024 in Palm Harbor, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Korea’s K.H. Lee fired a superb second round of 4-under 67 in tough conditions to surge into title contention at the Valspar Championship on Friday where he is just two back of five co-leaders.

The two-time PGA TOUR winner surged 57 spots into a tie for 15th place on a congested leaderboard at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course as he sought redemption for missing the cut at THE PLAYERS Championship last week.

Lee’s two-day aggregate of 4-under 138 leaves him within striking distance of a group of five players on 6-under who include overnight leader Kevin Streelman (72), Stewart Cink (67), Chandler Phillips (68), Brendon Todd (69) and Mackenzie Hughes (68).

“Windy day, pretty hard conditions. But I tried to be patient. I tried more kind of play smart, more centre of the green and sometimes if I had a good number I attacked the pin. I made an eagle on 11, that was some good momentum. I played well today,” said Lee, who currently ranks 90th on the FedExCup standings.

After securing a season best of tied fourth at the Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches earlier this month, Lee started his second round on a positive note with an opening birdie before delivering a magnificent eagle on the par-5 11th hole, courtesy of a sublime approach shot that landed five feet from the pin. He added two more birdies on Hole Nos. 12 and 15 before dropping his lone bogey of the day on the last hole.

Entering his fourth Valspar Championship, Lee is adamant his success hinges on a superior iron game as he seeks a third PGA TOUR victory. “I think this course, you really need to be patient. It’s always windy here. The last stretch of holes is pretty challenging. I mean, you have to be patient, and then you need to hit great iron shots and putting. So, I’m going to work a lot on my iron shots,” said Lee, who finished T19 here last season.

China’s Carl Yuan and Japan’s Ryo Hisatsune will enter the weekend rounds three back of the lead and in tied 21st position after posting 73 and 71 respectively while another Korean S.H. Kim sits on T57 on 142. Amongst those projected to miss the halfway cut include Chinese Taipei’s Kevin Yu (69) and Korea’s Sungjae Im (80). A total of 15 players failed to conclude their second rounds on Friday and will return early Saturday for their remaining holes.

Cink, aged 50, rolled back the years with a fine 67 as he seeks a ninth PGA TOUR victory. He is looking to become the ninth player in history to win after turning 50 where he would be the seventh-oldest winner. A group of nine players trail by one, including former FedExCup champion Justin Thomas (69).

Cink, who also plays on PGA TOUR Champions and recently became a grandfather, is embracing the fact that the field is facing a tough test at Innisbrook this week. “There’s a reason that so many players rave about this course,” he said. “It requires everything, and so far this week I’ve done everything fairly well.”

PARTIAL Second-Round Notes – Friday, March 22, 2024

Friday Weather: Cloudy and rainy. High of 70. Winds SSE at 15-20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph.

Note: Preferred lies were in effect for the second round.

Suspension of play: The second round was suspended due to darkness at 7:25 p.m. ET on Friday with 15 players left to complete the round. The second round will resume at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Approximate third-round tee times will run from 10:40 a.m. – 12:50 p.m. in threesomes off Nos. 1 and 10.

Projected cut: 78 players are at even par or better among the 149-player field.

PARTIAL Second-Round Leaderboard

T1Kevin Streelman6472136 (-6)
T1Chandler Phillips6868136 (-6)
T1Stewart Cink6967136 (-6)
T1Brendon Todd6769136 (-6)
T1Mackenzie Hughes6868136 (-6)
T6Nine players tied  137 (-5)
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