Schnell, Spaun share 36-hole lead in Raleigh

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J.J. Spaun (Michael Cohen/ Getty Images)

RALEIGH, N.C. – J.J. Spaun and Brady Schnell share the lead at 9-under 133 after 36 holes at the Rex Hospital Open, with 11 players within two shots of the lead heading into the weekend.

Spaun held a one-shot lead entering Friday after a first-round 63, but was up-and-down during his second round with a 1-under 70 that included three birdies and two bogeys.

Schnell began his second round on the back nine at TPC Wakefield Plantation and birdied Nos. 12, 13 and 14 before adding another birdie at the par-3 16th to reach 4-under-par through seven holes. The fast start gave way to a slew of pars over the final 11 holes for Schnell, who wound up posting a second-round 67 to tie Spaun atop the leaderboard.

This is the first time either Spaun or Schnell has held a share of the lead after the first two rounds at a Tour event.

“If they said 9-under without even pegging it, I would have said, ‘You’ve got a deal,’” Spaun said. “I’m happy with the way I played today and yesterday obviously. Today was just one of those days where you can’t really get any momentum going, but I’m in a good position. I’m happy.”

At the event’s halfway point, Spaun – who finished first on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada’s Order of Merit last year – has missed only four greens through 36 holes. The difference in his two rounds, he said, was posting just 28 putts on Thursday compared to 32 recorded on Friday.

“I felt like I played overall pretty solid,” Spaun said. “I would just like to have a few more putts go in, but, hey, a lot of putts were going in yesterday so it kind of evened out.”

Schnell is making his 50th career Tour start this week at the Rex Hospital Open. The 31-year-old made a career-high 20 starts in 2015, notching the first two top-10s of his career, including a T8 at the Club Colombia Championship Presented by Claro. Schnell finished 81st on the Regular Season money list, but finished T5 at the Tour’s Qualifying Tournament in December to secure exempt status subject to the third reshuffle of the 2016 season.

Entering the week in Raleigh, Schnell had missed the cut in his last four starts, but said he drew inspiration from James Hahn’s win at the Wells Fargo Championship last week, a victory that came to fruition after missing eight consecutive cuts prior to his victory.

“It’s always good to be right up near the lead,” Schnell said. “Especially with how things have been progressing for me lately, it’s nice to see the top of the leaderboard. I feel good going into the weekend, so I’ve just got to go make it happen.”

Jason Millard (68), Chris Wilson (70), Julian Etulain (66), Chase Marinell (68) and Dominic Bozzelli (66) are all just one shot back of the leaders at 8-under for the tournament.