Bud Cauley takes lead at Cognizant Classic after returning from three-year injury

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Bud Cauley takes lead at Cognizant Classic after returning from three-year injury
Cauley in action at the Cognizant Classic
Cauley in action at the Cognizant Classic
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Bud Cauley (33), back on the PGA Tour after a three-year injury absence, produced two late birdies to grab the outright second-round lead at the Cognizant Classic at PGA National Resort on Friday.

The Floridian shot a six-under par round of 65 on the Champion course to move to 11-under for the tournament, a stroke ahead of Austin Eckroat and South African Garrick Higgo.

With light fading, Cauley sank a 15-footer on the par-4 16th for birdie and then finished off his round by chipping out of the rough to 11 foot to sink another birdie.

"It's felt great. I've been hitting the ball solid. Short game has been sharp around here, which you need. You're not going to hit every green," said Cauley.

"I've been holing a lot of nice putts, which has been a lot of help," he added.

Cauley returned to tour action at Scottsdale last month after his absence from a series of injuries and complications from a car accident in 2018.

The crash occurred at the 2018 Memorial Tournament and left him with six broken ribs, a collapsed right lung and fractured left leg.

He returned to play later that year but complications emerged in 2020 and he was forced to undergo surgery before a long rehab process.

"There were a lot of times where I thought that my career was over. 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," he said.

The 33-year-old, who lives in Jacksonville and was cheered off the 18th by friends, was not totally surprised to find himself in contention so early into his return to competition.

"I gave myself enough time to prepare at home before I started playing again. My expectation was to come out and compete, and I felt like my game was in a good spot," he said.

"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...it was great to have those juices flowing again." he said.

Dunlap ace

But with 12 players within three strokes of him, the tournament is wide open going into the weekend.

Taiwan's Kevin Yu (67) and Victor Perez of France (66) are both two strokes behind the American.

World number two Rory McIlroy, who shot a second round of 67, is among those on eight-under.

Nick Dunlap who turned professional in January after winning the American Express at La Quinta as an amateur, had a memorable day, making his first hole-in-one on the tour.

Dunlap made an ace on Friday at the par-3 seventh.

"I loved a 7-iron for some reason, and (caddie) Hunter convinced me to hit the 8," he said.

"There's a little gully in the green right in the middle, and I couldn't tell if it went in that or if it went in the hole, and then somebody on the balcony of one of the houses screamed, and we figured it probably went in," he said.

Dunlap, who was the first amateur in more than three decades to win on the PGA Tour, was six strokes off the lead after carding a one-under 70 with four bogeys on the back nine.

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