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Matsuyama tied for PGA lead

AP, Kyodo

Most meaningful of all the text messages Hideki Matsuyama received last week was the one from Jason Day congratulating the star for his 61 in the final round at Firestone to win his second World Golf Championship.

It read: “Congrats, mate. Unreal playing. See you next week.”

Matsuyama looked just as unreal Friday at the PGA Championship, even before the storms arrived and took so much of the bite out of Quail Hollow.

Starting with a 12-foot putt — the longest of his seven birdies in the second round — the 25-year-old Matsuyama ran off five birdies over six holes for a 7-under 64 that gave him a share of the lead with Kevin Kisner going into the weekend.

“I think I’m playing well. I’m definitely picking it up,” said Matsuyama, the world No. 3.

“It makes me nervous being in the lead after two days at a major, but I’m really looking forward to the next two days. I want to win it.”

Kisner faced tougher, faster conditions in the morning and holed a 50-foot eagle putt from short of the green on the par-5 seventh hole. When his round was over, Kisner had a five-shot lead over the players from his side of the draw, and it didn’t look like anyone would get near him.

The storms arrived. Play was halted for nearly two hours. Quail Hollow looked vulnerable for the first time this week.

Among those who failed to take advantage was Jordan Spieth, who looks like he’ll have to wait another year to try to complete the career Grand Slam. Spieth made only one birdie — at No. 12, the fourth-toughest hole on the course — and shot 73 to fall 11 shots behind.

Matsuyama and Kisner were at 8-under 134. Day is starting to look like the No. 1 player in the world he was for most of last year, playing a four-hole stretch around the turn in 5-under par, posting a 66 and finishing two shots out of the lead.

The second round was halted by darkness, leaving 26 players to finish Saturday morning. That included Chris Stroud, who was 5 under and had five holes remaining.

Neither of the co-leaders has ever been atop the leaderboard in a major, and despite the difference in their pedigree, neither is afraid of the opportunity. Kisner, toughened by his time on the mini-tours, is a wizard around the greens and he is inspired by how he is hitting the ball.

“I haven’t hit it this well this whole summer — a lot of average finishes,” Kisner said. “When I start hitting it the way I am now, I play well.”

A major is all that keeps Matsuyama from being mentioned in the same class as Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Day and the rest of golf’s youngest stars.

Matsuyama took only 23 putts and can’t explain why they seem to be going in except that he switched to a new putter last week.

He did pose over the 7-iron that covered the flag tucked behind a bunker on the par-3 17th, leaving him a 7-foot putt for his final birdie. Matsuyama called that his best shot of the day. As for the worst?

“There were too many. I can’t count them all,” Matsuyama said. “Somehow, my worst shots were finding the fairway.”

The rest of golf knows better.

Matsuyama went on a torrid stretch last year when he won four times and was runner-up twice during a stretch of six tournaments. That included his first World Golf Championship at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.