Will Zalatoris shot a 5-under-par 65 Friday to move to 9 under and take a one-shot lead through the second round of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
Zalatoris will play in Saturday's final pairing with Chile's Mito Pereira, who posted a 64 and shot up to 8 under.
Earlier on Friday, Justin Thomas posted his second straight round of 67 to move to 6 under and grab the midday lead. His score stood up for third place by day's end, and Bubba Watson leapt into fourth place at 5 under by shooting the round of the day, a 7-under 63 with nine birdies.
First-round leader Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland carded a 1-over 71 to slip into a tie for fifth at 4 under with Davis Riley (68) and Mexico's Abraham Ancer (69).
The top 70 players, plus ties, made the cut of 4-over par. Tiger Woods shot 69 to get to 3 over for the tournament and make his second major cut in as many tries since his gruesome leg injury in 2021.
Zalatoris opened the event with a 66 and went off in the Friday afternoon wave that got to enjoy far better scoring conditions, with the wind dying down after 4 p.m. local time. He went bogey-free and rang up three of his five birdies at Nos. 11-13. That run began when he landed his tee shot at the par-3 11th just 5 feet from the cup.
Best known for finishing second at the 2021 Masters in his tournament debut, Zalatoris has yet to win on the PGA Tour but flashed his talent with four top-10 finishes in seven major starts.
"I've kind of had an attitude with the majors, especially since the Masters, where I wanted to enjoy the experience as much as I could," Zalatoris said. "Looking back from 20 years from now I don't want to regret my attitude or anything like that."
At the seven previous majors hosted at Southern Hills, all seven champions held at least a share of the lead after two rounds.
Pereira, who earned his PGA Tour card less than a year ago, tied his career-low round of 64. After starting on the back nine, he went 4 under on the front, with three of those birdies rolling in from 11 feet or farther.
He said he felt lucky to get the early-late draw -- early tee time Thursday, late tee time Friday -- that proved to offer much milder weather.
"Sometimes you get the bad draw, sometimes you get the good one," Pereira said. "But today for sure the wind in the back nine, there was almost none."
Thomas walked in his fourth and final birdie of the round with a celebratory sidestep at the par-4 ninth. It pushed him into sole possession of the lead for the first time, though it didn't last for long.
Thomas hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation and got a 23 1/2-foot birdie putt to fall at No. 5. He won the PGA Championship in 2017, his only major title to date.
"I played better today than I did yesterday. It was a lot more difficult due to the winds," Thomas said on the ESPN broadcast. "I told (caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay at the) beginning of the day, 'Let's just hit as many fairways, as many greens as possible,' because it's going to be very difficult to try to salvage pars all day, and I made it very easy on myself."
The biggest beneficiary of Friday afternoon's scoring opportunities was Watson, the two-time Masters champion. His irons were hot, helping him set up six birdie putts of 5 feet or shorter. He also drained a 40-foot birdie putt from way off the 11th green.
Stewart Cink (68), who turns 49 on Saturday, and England's Matt Fitzpatrick (69) were tied for eighth at 3 under.
Notable players to miss the cut included world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler (6 over), Dustin Johnson (6 over), Sergio Garcia of Spain (7 over), Patrick Cantlay (11 over) and Daniel Berger (13 over).
Scheffler's 5-over 75 on Friday came as a bit of a shock after he won four tournaments, including the Masters, to start his season. Scheffler opened with nine straight pars before piling up four bogeys and a birdie across his next seven holes.
At the ninth, a poor chip on his third shot led to a three-putt for a double bogey 6, dooming him to miss his first cut since October.
--Field Level Media