Maverick McNealy holes out for eagle to lead Fortinet Championship

Winless in 66 career starts on the PGA Tour, McNealy had nine birdies -- one from a greenside bunker to offset his stumbles and get to 12 under at Silverado Resort and Spa.

Maverick McNealy hits his tee shot on the first hole during round two of the Fortinet Championship at Silverado Resort and Spa on September 17, 2021 in Napa, California.   -  AFP

Maverick McNealy overcame three consecutive bogeys and holed out from 74 yards for eagle on his last hole for an 8-under 64 and the second-round lead Friday in the Fortinet Championship.

Winless in 66 career starts on the PGA Tour, McNealy had nine birdies -- one from a greenside bunker to offset his stumbles and get to 12 under at Silverado Resort and Spa.

Beau Hossler matched McNealy's 64 to get to 6 under with Mito Pereira (67). Three others, including tour rookie of the year Will Zalatoris (67), were 9 under.

First-round leader Chez Reavie barely made the cut after a round of 75 that included five bogeys, and a double-bogey left him eight strokes behind. Phil Mickelson (69) was seven back at 5 under.

McNealy, who missed the cut here a year ago, began the day three shots off the pace after an opening 68 but made that up quickly with birdies on three of his first four holes.

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The 25-year-old Northern California native was 9 under at the turn before stumbling when his approach shot on No. 1 sailed into a greenside bunker. McNealy had to scramble for bogey, dropped another shot on the next hole when a short putt missed long, then fell to 6 under after going into a greenside bunker again.

One of McNealy's bogeys came after his tee shot on No. 3 ricocheted backwards off a tree and went 50 yards down a cart path.

"Actually I think a golf cart ran over my ball so I had to take a drop," said McNealy, ranked 110th. "The front nine I played just about flawless golf. Made the turn and it's funny how things go. All of a sudden I made three bogeys in a row."

McNealy got back on track with a 10-foot birdie putt on No. 4. Two more birdies followed before he made a brilliant shot out of a bunker for another birdie on seven. After a par on eight, McNealy left his approach shot on the 571-yard, par-5 final hole, then used a sand wedge to hit a bump-and-run that rolled in for eagle.

"I was actually a little nervous because it looked like it landed in a pitch mark and then shot forward and right," McNealy said. "Turns out it was a great kick."

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That put McNealy, winner of the 2015 Haskins Award at Stanford as the top male college golfer, in good shape heading into the weekend as he seeks his first tour victory.

"I just keep telling myself every putt you make now is one less you have to make later," McNealy said. "It's great to be at the top of the leaderboard now but it means a heck of a lot more to be at the top at the end of 72 holes."

Hossler played bogey-free and moved into contention with eight birdies to get to 10 under. That helped him overcome an uneven first round that included a double-bogey - the only blemish on his scorecard so far.

"I didn't try and force it in the hole but I made a lot of mid-range putts and that's where you can really pick up strokes," Hossler said. "I know I can roll the ball well on the greens so I've just got to get as many chances as I can."

The 51-year-old Mickelson overcame a pair of bogeys and a cracked head on his fairway wood to stay in contention.

"I'm putting well so I've got a chance to make a run at it," Mickelson said.

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