By TIM REYNOLDS – AP Sportswriter
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Daniel Berger no longer has to answer questions about how his back is doing. The scorecard tells the story.
Berger – who plays a home tournament for him based in nearby Jupiter – was the early leader in two rounds of the Honda Classic after blasting a second straight 65 on Friday to move away from the field before the afternoon wave players took the course.
His 10-under-130 is the third-lowest 36-hole score since Honda switched to PGA National in 2007; Aaron Wise was under 12 in two rounds last year, Rory McIlroy was under 11 at halftime in 2014, and Brendon De Jonge was under 10 that same year.
Neither of them won further. McIlroy lost to Russell Henley in a playoff, Wise shot 75-73 over the weekend to finish tied 13th, and De Jonge free-falled 76-78 over the weekend to finish in 63rd place.
However, Berger has not shown any signs of problems so far this week.
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Berger had an opening round with five birdies and a clean bogey on Thursday and was nearly as clean on Friday with six birdies and a bogey. The only shot he returned was on the par 3, his sixth hole of the day, on the par 15, when his tee ball landed in a bunker and he ended up missing a 15 foot par putt.
If his lead holds – and winds are expected to pick up in the afternoon, it certainly could be — it would be Berger’s first 36-hole lead at a PGA Tour event since the Travelers Championship in August 2016. He is a four-time winner on Tour, most recently 2021 at Pebble Beach.
But the problems that have flared up in recent weeks have kept him from playing against Pebble this year and defending that title. Playing the Phoenix Open two weeks ago, he tested his back and afterwards stated that he would be good to play at PGA National – a place where he played a lot of junior golf – and get a home week at the Honda .
So far, so good. Actually very good.
Among those starting in Friday’s afternoon wave were first-round leader Kurt Kitayama, who was 6-under by lap 1, and another Honda fan favorite and South Florida native, Brooks Koepka.
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