Who needs an off season? Apparently, not Luke List. The 32-year-old, who has wandered back and forth between the PGA Tour and Web.com Tours since turning pro in 2007, was coming off the best season of his career in 2017, finishing 50th on the FedEx Cup money list to retain his PGA Tour card. And it was jump-started with a T-2 finish in last fall’s Sanderson Farms Championship, one of four top-25 finishes in the early portion of the 2016-’17 season.
Naturally, List hasn’t yet missed a start on the 2017-’18 calendar as he begins his third straight season on the PGA Tour, finishing T-37 at the Safeway Open and T-13 at the CIMB Classic. And his strategy looks to be working as the former U.S. Amateur runner-up and Vanderbilt All-American grabbed the halfway lead at the inaugural CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges with a bogey-free 67.
List sits at nine-under 135, one stroke ahead of Lucas Glover and Scott Brown and two strokes clear of Day 1 leader Justin Thomas and Cameron Smith, the Day 1 leader a week earlier at the CIMB Classic. He grabbed the outright lead with a birdie on his final hole, the ninth at Nine Bridges Golf Club in on Jeju Island, South Korea, one of just five in the 78-player field to birdie the par 5.
“Some positive vibes there,” List said. “Anytime you get a bogey-free you are really happy about it. The wind was tricky, but I was able to save par a lot and play solid in the back nine.”
Winless on the PGA Tour, with a victory at the 2012 Web.com South Georgia Classic as his lone professional victory, List holds a halfway lead in a PGA Tour event for just the second time in his career. The other came at the 2016 RBC Canadian Open, where he ultimately finished T-14.
Glover matched List’s 67 on Friday to stay in the hunt. The former U.S. Open champion also played well in the fall portion of last season, posting two top-five finishes, which have caused him to play early and often in the new season. He finished T-30 at the Safeway Open two weeks ago and T-7 last week at the CIMB Classic as he searches for his four career tour title.
Brown struggled at the outset on Friday, bogeying three of his first seven holes and turning with a two-over 38, but he closed with five birdies in the final eight to salvage a respectable two-under 70 and remain very much in contention.
Thomas, after shooting an opening-round 63, the ninth time in his nascent PGA Tour career that he has shot a 63 or lower, fell back with a second-round 74. He stumbled early, making three bogey on his front nine, then stumbled late again with a bogey on the par-5 18th to close out the day.
It tells you about the level of play from the reigning PGA Tour player of the year and FedEx Cup champion when this is his worst score he’s posted on the PGA Tour since a second-round 80 at the Open Championship.
As List alluded to, the winds, measured consistently between 15 and 20 miles per hour on Friday, appear to be Nine Bridges’ big defense. Without them, scores can he low as they were on Thursday, when they blew just 10-12 mph. In many respects, they will determine the type of play that will be seen on the weekend with $9.25 million on the line.
"If the wind does blow,” List said, “you can kind of be a little bit more strategic and try to make some pars out there.”