New York: Zimbabwe`s Brendon de Jonge made the most of his growing comfort level on the Old White Course by charging into a tie for the lead in Friday`s second round of the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia.
The burly 31-year-old, who finished third in the event`s inaugural edition 12 months ago, fired a sparkling three-under-par 67 to vault to the top of the standings at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs.
De Jonge rebounded from an early bogey with four birdies to post a seven-under total of 133, ending a sun-splashed day level with American Webb Simpson, who sank a six-foot birdie putt at the last for a 68.
Former Masters champion Trevor Immelman of South Africa, who set the first-round pace with a sizzling 64, was a further stroke back after carding a 70 while American world number six Phil Mickelson missed the cut after shooting a 73.
De Jonge, who had opened with a 66 in pursuit of a maiden victory on the PGA Tour, was delighted with his form at the picturesque resort venue situated in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains.
"I started out a little bit shaky but I made some good pars at the beginning of the round and got some momentum going," de Jonge told reporters. "It was nice. I felt like I had pretty good control of the ball."
The Zimbabwean`s best PGA Tour finish was his third place in last year`s Greenbrier Classic and he said he had liked the par-70 layout when he first saw it.
"I felt comfortable here from the start and I love the changes (since last year)," added de Jonge, who went to university at nearby Virginia Tech. "It feels good out there. It`s a comfortable place for me."
Long awaited breakthrough
De Jonge posted three top-three finishes on the 2010 PGA Tour and believes he simply needs to stay out of his own way if he is to pull off a long-awaited breakthrough victory on the U.S. circuit.
"It`s very, very difficult to win out here; it`s difficult to win anywhere," he said. "The biggest thing is just getting out of my own way.”
"Staying in your own routine ... is the best way to put it."
Britain`s Brian Davis birdied five of his last nine holes for a scintillating 64 to lie two shots off the pace, level with Americans Gary Woodland (70), Michael Letzig (66), Derek Lamely (70) and Scott Stallings (65).
The cut fell at one-over 141 with four-times major champion Mickelson the biggest name to fall by the wayside -- his first missed cut this year in 15 PGA Tour starts.
"I played really well, hit a lot of good golf shots," Mickelson said after mixing six bogeys with three consecutive birdies from the 12th. "I`m not disappointed at all.
"I hit a few shots on the front nine that were actually really good shots that left me no chance to recover and I ended up trying to come back, but fell a couple of shots shy there."
Former major winners Justin Leonard, fellow American Davis Love III and Spaniard Jose Maria Olazabal, plus last year`s Greenbrier Classic champion Stuart Appleby of Australia, also failed to advance.