(Reuters) - A little more than a month after clinching his maiden PGA Tour victory, American Kevin Streelman was back in the title hunt after coping well with strong gusting winds in the RBC Heritage second round on Friday.
The 34-year-old maintained his composure as he fired a one-under-par 70 at the picturesque Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina to move into a three-way tie for the lead at six-under 136.
Level with Streelman were compatriots Charley Hoffman (70) and PGA Tour rookie Steve LeBrun (68), with English world number six Luke Donald (68) and American Bill Haas (69) a further stroke back.
Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, was among a group of seven players knotted at four under after shooting a five-birdie 67.
Play was halted late in the day due to the threat of lightning as heavy thunderstorms closed in on Harbour Town and 17 players will have to complete the second round on Saturday.
Streelman birdied three of his first five holes, then managed to limit the damage as ocean winds gusted up to 30mph across a tight, tree-lined course renowned for its emphasis on accurate ball-striking.
“It got very difficult out there and it (the wind) is continuing to pick up as we speak,” Streelman, who triumphed at last month’s Tampa Bay Championship, told Golf Channel.
“It made some of those par-three shots very difficult and it really messed with drives out there. You just get gusts in these trees that come out of nowhere and shoot your ball in the wrong direction. You’ve just got to stay careful out there.”
Donald, who was edged out by American Brandt Snedeker in a playoff for the 2011 Heritage title, was delighted to improve on his opening round of 69.
”Today I hit it a lot better,“ the former world number one said after making two birdies in his last three holes. ”It was tougher and the wind was up but I had a lot more control today.
“I hit a lot more fairways, a lot more greens. I managed my game very well. It was more of a Luke Donald round today which is pleasing.”
McDowell was also in an upbeat mood after mixing five birdies with a lone bogey.
”Today I managed to roll a couple (of putts) in,“ the Northern Irishman said. ”It is a golf course that sets up well for me. You don’t have to move it very far off the tee, but you have to position it really well.
”And you have to play patient golf, which suits my type of play. The guy that wins here this week will have control of his golf ball.
“And it looks like we may have got the best out of the draw this morning,” McDowell said of the deteriorating weather. “I am happy to be in. Two solid rounds of golf.”
England’s Brian Davis, who held a one-shot lead overnight after opening with a 65, battled to a 75 and ended the day four strokes off the pace.
The cut was projected to fall at one-over 143 with world number five Snedeker and multiple major champions Ernie Els of South Africa and Fijian Vijay Singh among those in danger of missing out.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Julian Linden