BETHESDA, Md. Jeff Overton doesn't feel like a different player than the guy who could couldn't make it to the weekend on the PGA Tour over the last two months. Funny how seeing the ball go in the hole changes everything.
Overton continued his one-week turnaround Friday with a 5-under 65, giving him a share of the lead with Tom Pernice Jr. in the AT&T National before storms rained on the Fourth of July atmosphere at Congressional and interrupted the second round.
Overton and Pernice, who matched the course record on a soft, still day at Congressional with a 63, were at 9-under 131.
Anthony Kim, living up to his billing as the next young threat in golf, appeared poised to catch the leaders until a 1 1/2-hour storm delay that slowed his momentum. A bogey on the par-5 ninth gave him a 67, three shots behind with Cliff Kresge (65).
Consider how quickly Overton's prospects have changed.
He hasn't finished in the top 20 all year. He had not broken par since the last week in April. He missed the cut at the Buick Open last week, his sixth weekend off in his last seven tournaments.
He stuck around Detroit for a British Open qualifier Overton has never played in any major and was 9-under par over two rounds to finish first in his field and earn a ticket to Royal Birkdale.
He showed up at Congressional and hasn't stopped.
"I've hit a lot of great shots the last few weeks. It's been frustrating lipping out a lot of putts," Overton said. "And on Monday, made a bunch of putts and saw the ball go in the hole a few times, and it opens the flood gates mentally."
Pernice did most of his damage around the turn, running off four straight birdies, starting with a 20-footer on the tough par-4 sixth hole that played 494 yards.
"I've been playing well, and you never know when a round like this is going to jump up," Pernice said.
Perhaps even more surprising is that his left hip has been sore all week. He has spent much of his time with trainer Joey Diovisalvi and the tour therapists, trying to simply get around the golf course. Walking and setting up over the ball is causing the most pain, although he appears to be doing fine swinging the club.
Congressional also brought much-needed relief for Steve Stricker, who conceded earlier this week he had hit a mental wall. He opened with a 71, and started his second round with a 4-iron over the par-3 10th green and into the bunker.
Then he holed out for birdie, ran in a putt from 50 feet on the next hole for birdie, rammed in a 60-footer on No. 2 and before he knew it was in the trailer signing for a 64.
"I needed a good round," said Stricker, who was at 135.
Stricker was headed for his first trip to the White House with 13 other players for President Bush's holiday birthday bash.
Steve Marino, who grew up in northern Virginia and had a vocal cheering section that stuck with him when the rain arrived, shot 70 and joined Stricker in the large group at 135 that included Jeff Maggert (65), Billy Mayfair (68) and John Merrick, who finished his round with five 3s three birdies, a par and an eagle for a 64.
"It was crazy," Merrick. "It was nice to finish like that coming off the delay."
But the name getting the most attention was Kim, a 23-year-old from Los Angeles who finally lived up to some of his potential earlier this year with a runaway victory at the Wachovia Championship. Even without tournament host Tiger Woods in the field, it says plenty of Kim to play his best golf on two of the top PGA Tour courses this year Quail Hollow and Congressional.
He was playing with Joe Ogilvie and J.B. Holmes, and Ogilvie walked off the fifth green after making his third straight birdie to give himself a chance at making in the cut. Even so, he looked over at Kim, raised his eyebrows and said, "The guy is pretty good."
After a bogey on the final hole, he was pretty hot.
"I can't be too disappointed," Kim said. "I hit some poor shots and got nothing out of my game after the break, and that was unfortunate. But I've got two more days to go."
So do 13 other guys, all because of one 8-foot putt.
Ogilvie ran off four birdies in five holes to reach 2 over, but he missed an 8-foot par putt. That meant 83 players made the cut at 3 over, allowing players like Davis Love III, Sean O'Hair and Ogilvie at least one more day.
DIVOTS: Notah Begay, Woods' teammate at Stanford, followed his 67 with a 77 to miss the cut. Also missing the cut were Masters champion Trevor Immelman and Brandt Snedeker, who played in the final pairing at Augusta National. ... Overton made three of his five birdies after driving into the rough.