Playa Del Carmen, Mexico — Danny Lee felt as though he could make everything Friday, and for the longest time he did.
Already at 10-under par through 13 holes, Lee started thinking about a sub-60 round when he hit a downhill birdie putt too hard and wound up three-putting for bogey. Four pars later, he had to settle for a 9-under 62 and a one-shot lead among early starters in the Mayakoba Classic.
“Definitely, it was in my head, 59 or 58,” Lee said. “I never shot that score out on the PGA Tour before, so I really wanted to make that happen. On 14, I had a 3% downhill, less than 15-footer for birdie. Just one of those days I felt like I can make anything. I just gave a little too much extra and hit it through the break and missed the next one coming back.
“I was a little bit bummed out on that one,” he said. “But still, 9 under is a great start.”
Lee had a one-shot lead over Adam Long and Brendon Todd, who resurrected his career two weeks ago with a win in the Bermuda Championship.
Chris Baker reached 9 under through 15 holes until two bogeys over El Camaleon’s tough closing stretch. He wound up with a 64 and was in a group with Zach Johnson, Vaughn Taylor and Mark Hubbard.
The first round started a day late because of heavy rains – more than 9 inches since Monday – that left El Camaleon flooded and forced a washout Thursday. The second round was scheduled for Saturday, and because of limited daylight in November, the tournament will not end until Monday.
Lee shot 29 on the front nine, including a five-hole stretch he played in 6 under. The 62 matched his career-best round on the PGA Tour, a 62 he shot in the third round of the 2015 John Deere Classic.
Long and Todd already have won this year – Long at the Desert Classic in January when he beat Phil Mickelson, and Todd in a big surprise in Bermuda.
“I proved in Bermuda that I can kind of get into that mentality where I can go low again, and I basically started the day and said, ‘Let’s try and birdie every hole.’ I know it’s going to be soft and there’s going to be birdies out there.”
He had four birdies on each side against no bogeys on the rain-softened course.
Defending champion Matt Kuchar had a pair of double bogeys in his round of 69 that left him seven shots behind. Jason Day, playing at Mayakoba for the first time in 10 years, shot 70.
Lee’s only PGA Tour victory was four years ago at the Greenbrier. He is coming off a strong Asian swing, with a runner-up finish to Justin Thomas at the CJ Cup in South Korea, and a tie for 10th in Japan, where Tiger Woods won his 82nd career PGA Tour title.
He was runner-up to Kuchar a year ago, and he tied for third at Mayakoba in 2015.
“Something about this course that just suits my eye very well,” Lee said. “I can read the breaks very well and I putted very well today.”
Past champion Graeme McDowell was among those at 66, along with Abraham Ancer of Mexico.
Zander Lombard shot a 7-under-par 65 to overtake fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen and take a two-shot lead after two rounds at the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, South Africa.
Lombard, who has just one professional title and none on the European Tour, bogeyed the first but that was his only dropped shot of the day at Gary Player Country Club in Sun City. He collected five birdies and an eagle on the par-5 No. 10 to move to 11 under par and put himself in contention for his maiden tour title at his country’s most prestigious tournament.
Oosthuizen led by three after a first-round 63 despite struggling with kidney stones. He couldn’t take that momentum into the second round. He made three birdies and three bogeys for a par 72 to slip two shots behind.
Thomas Detry was third on 7 under, four off the lead, and Tommy Fleetwood moved up to a tie for fourth with Marcus Kinhult with a second successive 69. They were five off the pace.
Defending champion Lee Westwood, seeking a record-breaking fourth title at Sun City, went 1 over to slip eight shots behind Lombard.
Lombard came through qualifying school only last year and endured a run of eight missed cuts this year.
He said he decided to attack the course on Friday after starting with a 68. It paid off.
“We were just fighting for a birdie every hole, not looking at the leaderboard or figuring out if we were going to just make par,” he said. “We were trying to make a birdie every hole. It was my mindset. I was being aggressive and being positive and it went my way today.”
Race to Dubai leader Bernd Wiesberger was in sight of the leaders after a 3-under 69 put him seven shots behind in a tie for ninth.
Ernie Els, who has also won the Nedbank title three times, saw his early promise disappear. Els started with a 68 to be on the first-round leaderboard but he struggled with an 81 in round two, which included three double bogeys.