20 March 2021: Aaron Wise is making PGA National look easy. Wise shot his second straight 6-under 64 on Friday to take a three-stroke lead into the weekend at The Honda Classic. The 128 total is the lowest 36-hole score at PGA National since the tournament moved there 15 years ago — and marks the first 36-hole lead of Wise’s PGA TOUR career.
Despite scoring birides on two of his last three holes, Anirban Lahiri was forced out of the weekend. The Indian mounted a valiant challenge on the PGA National after starting the day at 2-over. But even though he made five birdies and played with commitment and aggression, there just wasn’t enough room on the card to see him through. Anirban conceded five bogeys to cancel out an even number of birdies during an eventful second round. The 70 on Friday meant that Anirban fell right under the edge of the knife at 2-over 142.
“It’s two great rounds of golf and I love that, and I love that I’m playing good,” Wise said. “But this place can get to you pretty quick and there’s a lot of golf left ahead and a lot of trouble out there.”
He had a pair of eagles to highlight the day, his first two of 2021. Brandon Hagy (62) and first-round leader Matt Jones (70) were tied for second.
Wise birdied the last to finish off the 64, the eighth round of 64 or lower surrendered by PGA National this week. Until this year, there’s never been more than seven rounds of 64 or lower in a Honda on that course; last year, no player even broke 66.
Wise made a 3-footer for a 3 at the par-5 18th, his ninth hole of the day, then connected on a 45-footer for eagle at the par-5 third.
“I’ve made so many bonus putts from outside 10 feet that I can’t complain,” said the 24-year-old Wise, the 2016 NCAA champion for Oregon.
Hagy didn’t even know he was playing in the tournament until it was almost too late to get a flight, getting in as the next-to-last alternate. He opened with a 69, then shot 62 — the fourth score that low in Honda history at PGA National — Friday.
“It’s been kind of a funny week,” Hagy said. “I was in Scottsdale on Tuesday afternoon and get a flight last minute, fly out Tuesday, don’t play practice rounds. I’m feeling like I’m playing on a little bit of house money, so I kept it pretty loose out there.”
Jones survived five bogeys to shoot even-par 70. Sam Ryder (63) was alone in fourth, four shots back at 8 under. Shane Lowry (66) was in a group at 7 under.
“I love this place,” Ryder said.
Jones (61), Wise (64) and Russell Henley (64) had the 64s or better Thursday; Hagy, Ryder, Wise, Brice Garnett (64) and Stewart Cink (64) had them Friday. Cink shot a 67 in his first Honda round at PGA National 12 years ago; he hadn’t been better than that in any of his 39 rounds there since, until Friday.
“It felt like an easier day scoring,” Cink said. “I played better, but it just felt like the course was more reasonable today than it was yesterday. This course is always hard.”
Wise’s score marked only the third time someone has been double digits under par after the first two rounds since The Honda Classic moved to PGA National. Both previous ones happened in 2014; Rory McIlroy was 11 under after 36 holes, one shot better than Brandon De Jonge.
McIlroy wound up losing that year in a playoff. De Jonge shot 76-78 on the weekend and tied for 63rd.
U.S. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker shot 71 and is 3 under. Padraig Harrington, captain of this year’s European Ryder Cup team, shot 78 and missed the cut. So did Lee Westwood, who was coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes at Bay Hill and THE PLAYERS Championship.
The silver lining for the 47-year-old Westwood was clear: He gets a couple days off before the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play next week. And he knew he was gassed even before getting to PGA National.
“This was probably a tournament too far for me, after the run I’ve had the last two weeks,” Westwood said. “But I felt like I should play here this week. In an ideal world this would have been a week off after finishing second the last two weeks. What can you do? Just felt like one I had to play.”