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Honda Classic: Justin Suh’s patience pays off with second-round lead

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Patience means a lot in professional golf, both on and off the course. Just ask Justin Suh.

Suh was part of a young Fab Four of college stars who all turned pro around the same time in 2019. While three of them — Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland and Matthew Wolff — won on the PGA Tour early in their careers, Suh struggled with a wrist injury and didn’t earn his PGA Tour card until last fall when he won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship.

Suh is making up for the lost time.

He fired a 6-under 64 Friday to take the 36-hole lead at the Honda Classic at PGA National. Suh leads Chris Kirk by a shot at 10-under 130 after Friday’s morning wave was completed.

“The putter got hot,” said Suh, who made 158 feet worth of putts Friday, including 76 feet during four consecutive birdies in the middle of his round. “It was fun to see the putts go in, even though I wasn’t trying to make them at 9 and 10. Was just trying to get them close.”

The 25-year-old Suh appears closer to winning on the PGA Tour to join his Fab Four brethren. Suh insists he remained focused on his career and didn’t worry about their fast starts.

“I never really let it get to me,” Suh said. “Obviously, they had immediate success, and it was cool watching them play so great. But for me, I knew I needed to improve. I just kept my head down and worked on my game.”

Suh also showed his patience on his final hole Friday, the par-5 18th at The Champion. He had 267 yards to the hole on his second shot — an ideal 3-wood distance, he said — but Suh chose to play conservatively.

“It was a perfect 3-wood,” Suk said, “but you see the water on the right.”

Suh instead laid up with an 8-iron to 116 yards, then hit a wedge to 8 feet. He made the putt to move to 10-under and take his first lead on the PGA Tour.

Thirty minutes earlier, Kirk faced a 12-foot birdie putt on the same green to tie the Honda Classic scoring record of 61 shared by Matt Jones (2021) and Brian Harmon (2012). Kirk missed but said he had no idea it was to tie the course record.

“No, I wanted to birdie the last three to shoot 59,” Kirk said with a grin. “It was a bummer not to make it. I felt like I deserved the birdie at 18 after hitting such a great wedge, but I misread the putt. I definitely won’t let that put a damper on a really good day.”

Another youngster, 23-year-old Ryan Gerard, of Jupiter, is two shots back in third place after a 63. Gerard, who made it through an open qualifying playoff Tuesday, played the two par-5s in 3-under, with an eagle at No. 3.

“Tuesday was definitely stressful because in a playoff every shot matters,” said Gerard, who’s playing in just his second PGA Tour event. “But I feel like I’ve done a really good job of just trying to cut out all the distractions and make sure that I’m ready to play golf when I get the chance to.”

Delray Beach resident Eric Cole (66), son of professional golfers Laura Baugh and Bobby Cole, is tied for fourth place with Ben Martin (64) at 7-under 133 after the morning wave.

There were plenty of low scores Friday with almost no wind, lower rough and softer greens turning the tournament into a dart contest. Traditionally one of the toughest courses on the PGA Tour, this week’s Honda Classic has turned into a limbo contest — how low can you go?

After three players shot 65 in the first round to share the lead, eight players shot 65 or lower in Friday’s morning wave. The average score has dropped almost 1½ strokes from Thursday to Friday (69.6).

Suh’s 130 total after 36 holes is the second-lowest score since the Honda Classic has been held at PGA National. Aaron Wise shot 128 in 2021 en route to a 13th-place finish.

Two of the first-round leaders, Billy Horschel and Joseph Bramlett, were playing in the afternoon wave. The other, Carson Young, shot 70 Friday morning.

At 37, Kirk seems like a grizzled veteran on a leaderboard filled with mid-twentysomethings. He pointed out age is just another number in golf.

“Anybody that makes it to the PGA Tour is an unbelievable player. No doubt about that,” Kirk said. “I am definitely not doubting any of the young talent out here. They hit it a lot farther than me and they play with a lot more confidence.”

And patience, as Suh showed. Consider: He never hit a shot on the Bear Trap until Thursday’s first round because this is his first start at the Honda and he had a late pro-am tee time Wednesday. He has made six pars so far on the Bear Trap.

Suh already avoided the mental trap of coming out on the PGA Tour with great expectations in ’19 only to have them tempered by the injury and so-so play.

“Everyone is on a different path,” Suh said. “All I’m focused on is just improving on a daily basis.”

Sometimes, patience can be the 15th club in your bag.

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