Five tournaments into his rookie season on the PGA Tour, Mackenzie Hughes has the 36-hole lead at Sea Island and expects a few nerves.
That weekend he spent with Phil Mickelson should at least help.
Hughes, of Dundas, Ont., had another bogey-free round Friday and took care of the par fives on the Plantation Course for a five-under 67, giving him a two-shot lead over C.T. Pan going into the weekend of the RSM Classic, the final PGA Tour event of the year. Hughes was at 14-under 128.
Pan also is a rookie, and perhaps they can take inspiration from rookie Cody Gribble winning in Mississippi three weeks ago. Hughes and Pan both spent last year on the Web.com Tour to earn their cards.
There wasn't much of a gallery at Sea Island on another pristine day for scoring, so ideal that the cut came at five-under par. That probably won't change for the weekend, especially with tournament host Davis Love III and Sea Island neighbours Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar among those missing the cut. It was the lowest cut on the PGA Tour since five under at the 2015 Zurich Classic.
Hughes opened with a nine-under 61 on the Seaside course at Sea Island, while he didn't hit the ball as cleanly over at Plantation, he had few complaints. He picked up three of his birdies at the par fives, even on the 18th when he found a fairway bunker off the tee and had to lay up.
Hughes and Pan, who shot a 64 at Seaside, played together on the Canadian Tour two years ago, and then all last year on the Web.com Tour. Pan had a brief stay atop the world amateur ranking in 2013 when he won eight times at Washington, and he made the cut as an amateur at the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
They will be joined in the final group by Hudson Swafford, who lives at Sea Island and shot a 67 on the Plantation. Swafford was three shots behind with Chad Campbell, Chesson Hadley and Blayne Barber.
Ottawa's Brad Fritsch (64) is tied for 50th at six-under and Nick Taylor (71) of Abbotsford, B.C., is tied for 63rd at five-under.
Ko in good spot to win top player award
Lydia Ko shot a tournament-record 10-under 62 to take a three-stroke lead in the CME Group Tour Championship, putting the top-ranked New Zealander in position to win the player-of-the-year award with a victory on Sunday.
The 2014 winner at Tiburon Golf Club, Ko birdied four of the first six holes and had seven birdies and a bogey on the back nine to get to 12-under 132 in the season finale. Ryann O'Toole (67) and So Yeon Ryu (68) were tied for second, and Sei Young Kim (68) and Beatriz Recari (68) followed at eight-under.
Ko needs a victory to top Ariya Jutanugarn in the player of the year race, and also would take the season points title and $1-million (U.S.) bonus with a win. The points in the CME Globe standings were reset for the finale, so Ko, Jutanugarn and Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., all control their destinies.
Ko is fighting Jutanugarn for the money title and In Gee Chun for the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average. Jutanugarn, the tour victory leader with five, was tied for 19th at four-under after a 68. Chun (69) was tied for sixth at seven-under and Henderson (72) was tied for 38th at even par. Alena Sharp of Hamilton shot a second-round 76 to sit at 145, one-over par.
Garcia, Molinari in the hunt
Spain's Sergio Garcia and Italy's Francesco Molinari shared the lead in the European Tour's season-ending World Tour Championship.
They each shot five-under 67 to reach nine-under 135 at Jumeirah's Earth Course.
First-round leader Lee Westwood of England was a stroke back after a 70.
Race to Dubai leader Henrik Stenson stayed in touch with his rivals for the season points title. The Swede shot a 69 to reach three-under, the same as No. 2 Danny Willett (70), and one behind compatriot Alex Noren (69). Rory McIlroy was one-under after a 68.