American Matt Every birdied his final hole to break clear of a congested leaderboard as fan favorite Phil Mickelson missed the cut after Friday's second round of the Greenbrier Classic at White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia.
Every, who has yet to win on the PGA Tour, coolly rolled in a 10-footer at the par-four ninth to complete a blistering eight-under-par 62 at The Greenbrier's Old White Course for a nine-under total of 131.
The 29-year-old, who has twice been a runner-up on the U.S. circuit, piled up eight birdies in a flawless display but declined to speak to reporters after signing his card as he wanted to be with his wife, Danielle, who was not feeling well.
Johnson Wagner, one of two co-leaders overnight, carded a 70 to finish one stroke off the pace, level with fellow Americans Daniel Summerhays (67), Bill Lunde (66) and Russell Henley (65), and Australian Steve Bowditch (67).
While players were able to take advantage of preferred lies for a second day in a row, four-times major winner Mickelson again struggled with his distance control before exiting the tournament after following his opening 74 with a 68.
"I played well today, hit a lot of good shots and my game feels good, even though the scores were not very good," world number six Mickelson told Golf Channel after missing the cut at The Greenbrier for a third year in a row.
"I hit a lot of good shots and as I look back on these last three years where I have struggled here, that's been the biggest issue for me, is distance control with the irons.
"I have been surprised by every iron shot where it lands relative to where I expect it to land. And it's not just a yard or two off like it normally is ... it's 10 or 12 yards off. I haven't been able to adjust."
While Mickelson was unable to adjust at The Greenbrier, Australian Bowditch was delighted to put himself in foreign territory he has long dreamed about occupying - being in contention for a maiden PGA Tour title.
"I really haven't put myself in position my whole career, so it's going to be a new experience for me," said Bowditch, who has recorded only one top-10 on the circuit after three full seasons.
"I've gained a little bit of experience but not quite at this level ... so I'm just going to go out there and play my game. My golf swing feels probably the best it's felt in a long time now. I'm sort of freewheeling it, which is nice.
"It's obviously everyone's dream at this level to try and win," Bowditch said after mixing four birdies with a lone bogey. "Just keep giving myself chances and hopefully on the back nine I'll have a chance to do well."
Henley, who won his first PGA Tour title at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January, was also in an upbeat mood after surging into contention with a seven-birdie display.
"I hit the ball great all day," said the 24-year-old, who ended his round by draining a 14-footer to birdie the ninth. "Made a lot of good putts and just stayed patient. Got one there at the very end so it feels pretty good."
Swede Jonas Blixt (67) was two shots off the lead, along with Americans Ben Curtis (66) and Tommy Gainey (71) and Englishman Greg Owen (66), while 63-year-old Tom Watson rolled back the years with a 69 to sit a further four strokes back.
The cut fell at one-under 139 with Fiji's ex-world number one Vijay Singh and fellow former major winners Lucas Glover, Trevor Immelman and Mike Weir among those missing out.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry)