WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — As Kelly Kraft continued taming the Old White TPC, he seemed so comfortable and confident it was hard to fathom how in 84 PGA Tour events he had never been a 36-hole leader.
That drought ended July 6, putting the 29-year-old halfway home to his first pro victory.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence going into the weekend,” Kraft said after moving to 13-under at the Greenbrier with a career-low round of 63. “I’ve just got to keep the pedal down.”
He sank a 27-foot birdie putt on No. 8, dropped in a 21-footer from the fringe of the ninth green and curled a 151-yard approach shot within 5 feet on No. 11.
“It seems like I have a makeable look almost every hole, and you’re bound to make a few of them,” Kraft said.
After missing 13 cuts in 24 tournaments this season, Kraft ranks 186th in the world and 119th in the FedExCup standings. But he has played six rounds in the 60s at the Greenbrier, dating back to last year, when he finished in fifth place.
“I played well here last year, so I have a lot of good memories,” he said.
First-round leader Webb Simpson and Anirban Lahiri reside one stroke behind Kraft, at 12-under. Both posted career-best 61s this week, Lahiri’s coming Friday, when he felt as though, “I could birdie every hole.”
Lahiri’s surge featured putting so accurate that a brief flurry of pars left him irked.
“Believe it or not, I was getting a little frustrated on the back nine because I missed a short one on 15,” Lahiri said, referencing an 8-foot putt that he rolled past the hole. “Then 16 and 17 I had little flip wedges and chips and didn’t get up-and-down and didn’t birdie either of those holes.”
He calmed himself to finish with five birdies on the final eight holes, draining a 20-footer on No. 8.
“The hole looked pretty big,” Lahiri said.
Ranked 99th in the world with three top-10 finishes this season, Lahiri has 18 international titles, most of them in Asia, but still seeks his first PGA win in his fourth full year on the tour. His top career finish was tying for fifth, at the 2015 PGA Championship.
Jason Kokrak (11 under) surged into fourth place by shooting 64 Friday, while Whee Kim and Harold Varner III were tied for fifth, at 10-under.
As expected, the largest galleries followed Phil Mickelson (5 under) and Bubba Watson (6 under), stars who need big weekends to chase down the leaders.
Mickelson’s second shot on the par-5 No. 12 found the water, leading to a bogey. He made amends on the par-3 15th hole with a 38-foot birdie putt.