Matt Kuchar remains in front through two rounds at the Genesis Invitational in Pacific Palisades, Calif., though his lead has dwindled heading into the weekend and the world's top-ranked golfer is suddenly in close pursuit.
Kuchar shot a 2-under-par 69 on Friday to move to 9-under 133 through 36holes at Riviera Country Club, good enough for a two-stroke lead over a trio of golfers: Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Americans Harold Varner III and Wyndham Clark.
While Kuchar headed to the clubhouse with the lead, it was those closest to him who walked off the course holding the momentum.
McIlroy, the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Rankings, shot a 4-under 67 Friday. Varner and Clark each shot 3-under 68s.
What's more, those three are the only three in the tournament to shoot 68 or better in each of the first two rounds.
However, McIlroy appears to be the one on a mission, considering he has never won the Genesis.
"I think any tournament that you haven't won is one that you'd love to win and add it to your list, but especially here, the history here and the greats that have won here," McIlroy said, according to Golfweek.
As for his round Friday, McIlroy sounded as if he were approaching the tournament as a major, where mistakes will happen but the winner will be the one who best minimizes them.
"That's what this place is all about," he said. "You can hit a few squirrelly shots and get away with it as long as you miss it in the right places."
Kuchar echoed that approach when talking about needing five more strokes to complete his second round than he did to finish his first.
"Certainly glad to be in the clubhouse at 2 under (for the round), 9 under total," Kuchar said, per Golfweek. "Wasn't driving it nearly as accurate as I did the first day and I had to play very defensive. However, did some good scoring. When I had opportunities, I seemed to take advantage. Two under was an awfully good score for the way I drove it today."
While McIlroy entered the event coming off a third-place finish at the Farmers Insurance Open in January and playing in his first tournament as the world No. 1 again, Varner arrived at Riviera having missed four consecutive cuts.
"Just embrace this stuff," Varner told the Golf Channel when asked how he managed his expectations entering the event. "Golf's hard. It's just not going to go your way every time. The biggest thing for me is to keep a good attitude."
When asked if his approach changes considering his current location on the leaderboard, Varner had a quick answer for that.
"No, not at all," he said. "Just keep doing what I've been doing. Keep trusting what I'm doing, having fun, and just play to win. It's pretty simple."
Four golfers sit another shot back at 6 under: South Korea's Sung Kang (67 on Friday), Australian Adam Scott (64), Vaughn Taylor (67) and Russell Henley (69). Scott's 64 was the round of the day, two strokes better than the scores posted by Americans Dustin Johnson and Charles Howell III.
American Chez Reavie (68) and Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello (69) sit at 5 under for the tournament and round out the top 10.
Tiger Woods fizzled out on the back nine for the second straight day but finished at even-par 142, making the cut with one stroke to spare.
NOTES: McIlroy, American Brooks Koepka (69-73-142; T45) and Spain's Jon Rahm (70-68-138; T11) could finish the weekend ranked No. 1 in the OWGR. ... No. 7 Webb Simpson is the only top 10 player not in this week's field. ... This is the lone PGA Tour event in which Woods has made at least 10 starts without recording a victory. He is seeking to win a record 83rd career PGA Tour title in his 14th start at Riviera. ... Defending champion J.B. Holmes of the United States shot a second consecutive 69 and is tied for 11th at 4-under 138. ... Bubba Watson had won the past three times at Riviera on even-numbered years. He missed the cut at 2 over. ... Other notables to miss the cut: Australia's Jason Day (2-over 144), Justin Thomas (3-over 145) and Phil Mickelson (4-over 146). ... The event began in 1926, and Riviera will be the site of the 2028 Olympic golf events. ... The largest margin of victory since the tournament moved back to Riviera uninterrupted in 1999 is five strokes by Johnson in 2017.
--Field Level Media