Colt Knost, an American who began his US PGA career in 2007 yet managed his first top-10 finish just seven weeks ago, is the unlikely leader of the Heritage Classic.
The 26-year-old Texan fired a bogey-free five-under par 66 on Friday to stand on nine-under 133 after two rounds, two strokes ahead of Sweden's Carl Pettersson at the $5.7 million event.
Knost, who shared third at the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico in February for the best showing of his PGA career, ranks 93rd on the money list with just over $300,000 but would win $1.026 million if he holds the lead for 36 more holes.
"It has been a really solid two days for me," Knost said. "Very pleased with how I'm playing right now, striking it well, and making a few putts. I'm looking forward to the weekend."
Knost began off the 10th tee at Harbour Town and birdied the par-4 13th and par-3 17th, then began his second nine with birdies at the par-4 first and par-5 second and added another at the par-5 fifth hole.
Knost jumped into the PGA crucible after two quick wins on the developmental tour but struggled to take the next step.
"I felt like I was ready for this level out here and apparently I wasn't," he said. "I don't know if I just didn't continue with the same work ethic or not or I didn't have the belief, but it was a struggle for a few years out here. But now I feel like I'm starting to get my game back where I like it.
"I had one good finish this year, but I'm making a lot of cuts, which is a step in the right direction for me. I felt so comfortable being around the lead even though it's only Friday. I think I'm going to feel great this weekend."
Pettersson fired a 65 to join Knost in Saturday's final group, netting his birdies in bunches including three in a row starting at the second hole, back-to-back birdies at 11 and 12 and two more to finish his round against a lone bogey at the par-5 15th.
"I had a nice round today and I'm looking forward to the weekend," Pettersson said. "I've still got a long way to go. My game is good. In golf you still have two days, which is a long way to go. I'm just happy to be playing well and hopefully have a chance on the weekend."
Americans Boo Weekley and Harris English shared third on 136 with countrymen Chad Campbell and Robert Garrigus another shot back.
World No. 1 Luke Donald of England fired a 69 to stand on 144, one stroke under the cutline to avoid ensuring the loss of his top ranking.