Washington - Kevin Chappell made a scintillating return to the PGA Tour on Friday, joining one of golf's most exclusive clubs by firing an 11-under-par 59 in the second round of The Greenbrier.
Chappell, who had back surgery 10 months ago and is playing his first tour event since last November, posted just the 11th sub-60 round on the PGA Tour.
He had a chance to join Jim Furyk as the only players to card a 58 on tour, but his 11-foot birdie putt at the ninth, his last hole of the day, curled left at the hole.
"All in all couldn't be happier with where I'm at and more proud of myself to do what I did today," said Chappell, who finished the day on 10 under after 36 holes.
He was three off the lead shared by Joaquin Niemann, Scottie Scheffler and Robby Shelton.
"Ten months ago I was on the couch and couldn't walk," Chappell said, his voice breaking. "So many people had a lot to do with getting me back out here and getting me competitive.
"I haven't accomplished the goal yet," added the 2017 Texas Open winner. "There's a long weekend to go and win the golf tournament, but it's a step in the right direction."
Chappell's 11 birdies included a record-equalling nine in a row - matching the mark set by Mark Calcavecchia at the 2009 Canadian Open at Glen Abbey.
He teed off on 10 on the par-70 Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and birdied holes 11 through one.
That included a 17-footer to get things going at the 11th and a near 30-footer at 18 before he recovered after finding the rough off the tee at the first - where he drained a 13-footer.
After a birdie at the fifth, he rolled in a 12-footer from the fringe at the seventh - his 16th hole of the day.
At that point, Chappell said, "I told my caddie I wanted to shoot 57, just trying to keep the mindset, keep the foot on the gas.
"I hit a poor shot there into eight. Last hole I had a great look at 58, maybe under-read the putt a little bit."
Chappell's 59 wasn't the first at The Greenbrier, where Australian Stuart Appleby hit the magic number in the final round to win the inaugural edition in 2010.
It was the first sub-60 round on the PGA Tour since Brandt Snedeker's 59 at the 2018 Wyndham Championship and stole the spotlight on a day when plenty of players were going low.
Chile's Niemann and American Scheffler both posted bogey-free 62s to top the leaderboard on 13-under 127. They were joined by Shelton, who followed up his first-round 62 with a 65.
American Adam Long was alone in fourth after a bogey-free 62 for 128 - two shots in front of Chappell.
Scheffler had eight birdies while Niemann had six birdies and an eagle at the par-five 12th,
"I just need to keep playing the way I have been playing," said 20-year-old Niemann, who has yet to make a bogey this week. "I've hit wedges close to the pin, hit my driver well and I'm really happy with the way I've been playing. Just need to keep it that way for the weekend."
The two highest-ranked players in the field for the first event of the 2019-2020 season won't be around for the weekend.
World No 10 Bryson DeChambeau fired an even par 70 to miss the cut by two strokes at two-under.
Australia's 24th-ranked Marc Leishman withdrew with back trouble after carding a first-round 76.
130 - Kevin Chappell 71-59
133 - Im Sung-jae (KOR) 66-67, Grayson Murray, 66-67, Bronson Burgoon 65-68, Zack Sucher 64-69, Rob Oppenheim 65-68, Tom Hoge 68-65, Jason Dufner 67-66, Denny McCarthy 72-61, Scott Harrington 64-69, Harry Higgs 67-66