US PGA Championship Halfway Hut: Will Zalatoris charges into lead at Southern Hills

News, stats and quotes after 36 holes in Tulsa where the American holds a one-shot lead over Mito Pereira following Friday’s action.

It's fair to say that Will Zalatoris is in Position A after two rounds of this week's US PGA Championship at Southern Hills.

That comment, of course, would apply to anyone topping the leaderboard at this stage of the tournament.

But at Southern Hills, Position A at halfway really is desirable.

Why? The Tulsa layout has staged seven previous Major championships and on every occasion the 36-hole leader has gone on to claim victory.

Zalatoris will hope to keep that streak going after carding a superb bogey-free 65 on Friday, a round that vaulted him into first place on 9-under 131.

That's a shot ahead of Chilean surprise package Mito Pereira and three in front of Justin Thomas who posted the early clubhouse lead of 6-under.

Zalatoris has already had a big break this week: he was on the right side of the draw.

Those who played early on Thursday and late on Friday had far easier winds to contend with and Zalatoris and Pereira cashed in with rounds of 65 and 64 respectively.

Bubba Watson did even better, the two-time Masters champion matching the lowest round in the tournament's 104-year history by blasting a 63 to move into fourth place.

Thomas' pair of 67s from the 'wrong' side of the draw were hugely impressive and he could well pose the biggest threat to Zalatoris this weekend.

First-round leader Rory McIlroy didn't have his best stuff in round two but battled on for a 1-over 71 that left him tied fifth with Abraham Ancer and Davis Riley on 4-under. That's five off the pace.

Matt Fitzpatrick (tied eighth) and Tyrrell Hatton (tied 10th) also gave the leaderboard some European presence.

There will be no weekend charge from World No.1 Scottie Scheffler or double Major winner Dustin Johnson, who both shot 6-over - two shots too many - and missed the cut. Patrick Cantlay also failed to make the weekend.

But Tiger Woods dug deep on the back nine to make it on 3-over after following his opening 74 with a 1-under 69.

Stats

Zalatoris has had one previous 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour. That came at last October's Sanderson Farms Championship where he followed a Friday 61 with laps of 72 and 68 to drop to tied 14th.

Zalatoris has made the joint-most birdies so far (11) and the fewest bogeys (2).

Zalatoris ranks 1st for Strokes Gained: Putting, 3rd Tee To Green, 7th Approach, 22nd Around The Green and 29th Off The Tee.

Zalatoris is seeking a fifth top 10 finish in his last seven Majors.

A total of 13 second-round leaders/co-leaders have won the US PGA Championship since 2000. Phil Mickelson last year was the most recent.

Scheffler is just the third World No.1 to miss the cut at the US PGA.

Quotes

A look at what the top names said after Friday's play.

Will Zalatoris (65, -9)

"I got away with murder a few times today for sure, especially starting off the day hitting the left trees and hitting it to a kick-in. I just kept the round going today. Made a bunch of six-, eight-footers for par that kept the day going, and obviously being bogey free around this place is pretty nice.

"We lucked out with the draw for sure. I played the last eight holes with not much wind, but take it when you can get it."

On every 36-hole leader at Southern Hills going on to win: "I think history to me, it is what it is, but I'm going to go out and do my job, and hopefully it's enough at the end."

Mito Pereira (64, -8)

"I've been hitting the ball really well, so if I can just put one day of good putting, something like this comes up. So just really happy how I ended up playing today.

"I played in college here on 2015 I think. They change it a little bit, but for sure it's a tough course, tough greens to read. They're really slopey. You got to put it on the fairway because you can't judge the rough. So I guess shooting 6-under wasn't really the expectation, but here we are."

Justin Thomas (67, -6)

"Very pleased. Although I played solid yesterday, I played really, really well today. The conditions were obviously very difficult. I stayed very patient, tried to get in my own little world and get in a zone and just tried to execute each shot the best I could.

"I felt we did a great job of that and am glad to have a good round to show for it. I'm very, very pleased with where everything is at and the frame of mind and state of mind that I'm in."

Bubba Watson (63, -5)

"When that wind died down, you just felt like you had a chance to score. I'm not saying it was easy by any means. I just hit some putts, hit some shots that helped me.

"You know, my whole goal was to make the cut, so I was just trying to stay ahead of the cut line, and every time I made a birdie I just kept saying, that's one more to the good. Today was a great day."

Rory McIlroy (71, -4)

"I didn't get off to the best of starts. That bogey on 2, and then I guess from there, it was not really giving myself enough realistic chances for birdies.

"After that, I played solidly on the way in there, after the second bogey on 7 there; to play the last 11 holes in 1-under was respectable, you know, not to make another bogey. Those up-and-downs on 16, 17, and 18 I think are going to be really important."

Tiger Woods (69, +3)

"I'm hoping I can shoot a number like Bubba did today tomorrow. That's where my mind is at right now. I've got to do some things physically to get myself there tomorrow and it will be a quick turnaround.

"Hopefully I can post a good round and at least move up the board, get myself within striking distance on Sunday. I'm pretty far back, but you just never know."

READ MORE: Matt Fitzpatrick not a fan of Southern Hills despite impressive start

Latest news