LOS ANGELES: American Sam Ryder defied gusting winds at Torrey Pines on Thursday to fire a four-under par 68 and push his lead to three strokes in the US PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open.
Ryder, who shared the overnight lead with England's Aaron Rai and fellow American Brent Grant, had five birdies on the South Course for a 12-under par total of 132 -- three strokes clear of playing partner Brendan Steele.
Steele, who started the day one off the lead, closed with back-to-back birdies in a two-under par 70 for a nine-under par total of 135.
"It feels great," Ryder said of taking the lead into the weekend in search of his first US PGA Tour title.
"The thing I've been kind of telling myself is to just try and embrace it. It's not a position that I've been in a lot, you know, so just trying to enjoy it."
Ryder followed a two-foot birdie at the third with a bogey at the fourth, where he was in a fairway bunker and a greenside bunker.
He rebounded with an eight-foot birdie at the fifth, and rolled in a six-footer at the 10th, a 10-footer at the 13th and a 12-footer at 14.
"I'm just doing everything pretty solid," Ryder said. "Starts off the tee for me, I'm driving it well. My iron play is really good, so I feel like if I put it in the fairway, I can attack. And I don't think I really missed many shots today.
"I feel like I had a couple nice bunker saves, things that you have to do to keep rounds going especially on a tough day like this, where it's windy around a tough course," added Ryder, who led by as many as five before Steele cut the deficit with his birdie-birdie finish.
"Obviously conditions (were) way more difficult and the (South) course is more difficult on its own anyway," said Steele, who won the most recent of his three tour titles when he defended his Safeway Open title in October of 2017.
US PGA Tour rookie Tano Goya of Argentina had six birdies in a five-under 67 on the North Course -- one of two in use over the first two rounds -- for sole possession of third place on seven-under 137.
Overnight co-leader Grant was among a group sharing fourth on 138 after a two-over 74, while Rai slid down the leaderboard with a six-over par 78.
RAHM RALLIES LATE
Spain's Jon Rahm, who won the 2021 US Open at Torrey Pines, needed a strong finish on the North Course to find himself with a share of 14th on four-under par 140.
Rahm teed off on the 10th needing to gain ground after a first-round 73 and remained one-over for the tournament -- flirting with the cut line -- after two birdies and two bogeys in his first nine holes.
He got things going, however, with an eagle at the par-five fifth hole, the birdied the sixth, seventh and eighth as he powered home for a five-under par 67.
"I knew that's probably in any given day the most scorable part of the golf course," Rahm said. "Luckily I've been hitting it really good ... just kind of guessed with the wind right in all of them.
Rahm, who has already won the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and the American Express in La Quinta, California this month, said he wasn't concerned about the cut.
"The goal is to win," said Rahm, who is trying to become the first player since Dustin Johnson in 2017 to win three straight PGA Tour starts. -- AFP
US PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open scores
Leading second-round scores on Thursday (USA unless noted, par-72):
132 - Sam Ryder 64-68
135 - Brendan Steele 65-70
137 - Tano Goya (ARG) 70-67
138 - Taylor Montgomery 67-71, Brent Grant 64-74, Sahith Theegala 66-72, Max Homa 68-70, Sam Stevens 66-72, Vincent Norrman (SWE) 67-71
139 - Jason Day (AUS) 68-71, Collin Morikawa 67-72, Andrew Novak 66-73, Ben Griffin 67-72
140 - An Byeong-hun (KOR) 68-72, Callum Tarren (ENG) 71-69, Jimmy Walker 69-71, Jon Rahm (ESP) 73-67, Joseph Bramlett 69-71, Taylor Moore 72-68