GOLF: De Jonge shoots into Valspar champs lead

Brendon de Jonge

Brendon de Jonge

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ZIMBABWEAN Brendon de Jonge rolled in a pair of long putts on his way to a 2-under 69 and the 36-hole lead in the Valspar Championship.

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Based on the holes remaining, he is halfway home to his first PGA Tour title.

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Considering how many players are still in the mix — essentially everyone who made the cut — the weekend might feel even longer.

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Only seven shots separated de Jonge from the players who made the cut on the number, the first time the first-to-worst gap has been that small since the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s.

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“Obviously, gives you a good chance for the weekend,” de Jonge said. He was at 6-under 136, the highest score to lead after 36 holes at Innisbrook in six years.

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De Jonge said that after he finished his round in the morning, uncertain how hard the wind would blow and who might get hot with the putter.

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The wind died, no one could sustain a great round without a few mistakes and he had the 36-hole lead for the fourth time in his career.

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Jordan Spieth made a birdie putt from the fringe on the 18th for a 4-under 67 to match the best score of the round. Henrik Stenson, playing the Copperhead course for the first time and apparently enjoying it, made eagle on his first hole and wound up with a 70.

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They were one shot behind, along with Ryan Moore (68), Kevin Streelman (69) and Derek Ernst (70).

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Ernst, who had only one round in the 60s this year, ran off five straight birdies around the turn to reach 8-under par until he started missing greens, missing putts and making bogeys to fall one shot behind de Jonge.

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“Starting the day if you told me I would have shot 1 under I would have been very happy with it,” Ernst said.— AP.