Cauley makes remarkable comeback from crash to lead PGA

Staff WritersAP
Things are looking up again for Cognizant Classic leader Bud Cauley after his serious car crash. (AP PHOTO)
Camera IconThings are looking up again for Cognizant Classic leader Bud Cauley after his serious car crash. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

Seriously injured in a 2018 car crash and playing a tour event for only the third time in nearly four-and-a-half years, Bud Cauley is the surprise leader at PGA National.

The American shot a 6-under 65 on Friday to take a one-shot lead after 36 holes of the Cognizant Classic.

Cauley had 11 birdies without any bogeys over his last 27 holes. He made a 12-footer for birdie at the par-5 18th on Friday as darkness began settling in, posting 11-under 131 and giving him his first 36-hole lead on tour since the Valero Texas Open in 2017.

"My expectation was to come out and compete, and I felt like my game was in a good spot," Cauley said.

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"Saying it is one thing, doing it is another. I'm really happy with how I've played. I feel like my game has been trending in the right way. I've been hitting the ball well and just needed some scoring things to start."

Austin Eckroat (67) and Garrick Higgo (65) were a shot back. Kevin Yu (67) and Victor Perez (66) were tied for fourth at 9 under, while Shane Lowry and world No.2 Rory McIlroy (both 67 for a second consecutive day) were part of a group three shots off the pace.

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Cauley broke six ribs and sustained other injuries in the 2018 crash and didn't play on tour for four months.

Everything seemed fine for a couple of years - until it wasn't. Bone had grown over the plates that were installed in his ribs, a slew of problems popped up, multiple surgeries were needed and Cauley couldn't help but wonder if his best golf was behind him.

"There were a lot of times where I thought that my career was over," Cauley said. "To be back here playing and playing well, it's nice. It just makes me that much more happy that I kept after it and didn't stop trying."

A couple of top-35 finishes on the Korn Ferry Tour in January gave him some momentum. He made the cut in his return to tour play at Phoenix last month and now finds himself in the mix at PGA National.

Of the top five players at the midway point, only one is ranked in the top 100: Perez is 97th. Eckroat is 101st.

"Solid," Eckroat told Golf Channel after his four-birdie, no-bogey round. "Really stress-free golf for the most part. ... Just solid all around."

Not everybody had a stress-free day. Thomas Detry shot 80, missing the cut by 13 shots and grabbing attention for his blowup on the par-4 6th.

Detry had a 50-footer for birdie. He knocked that putt about 6 feet past the hole, then missed the par putt, then missed a 3-footer for bogey, then missed a tap-in, then missed another 3-footer before tapping in to finally complete a six-putt, quadruple-bogey 8.

Chad Ramey, who entered Friday tied for the lead, shot a 72 and was 6 under. Defending champion Chris Kirk (70) made the cut with ease at 5 under, and is tied 23rd.

First-round co-leader S.H. Kim shot a 74, 10 strokes worse than Thursday, and is at 4 under.

Australian Min Woo Lee followed his 67 with a 70, and at 5-under is six behind Cauley.

Compatriot Aaron Baddeley (71, 71) is even par and outside the projected 2-under cut line.

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