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Long eagle putt helps Ben Griffin nab Sanderson Farms lead

Ben Griffin rang up an eagle and seven birdies to card the round of the day and take the second-round lead at the Sanderson Farms Championship on Friday in Jackson, Miss.

Griffin’s 9-under-par 63 at the Country Club of Jackson — a career best — propelled him to 14-under 130 for the event. He leads by two shots over Luke List (66 on Friday), Australia’s Harrison Endycott (65), China’s Carl Yuan (66) and Sweden’s Henrik Norlander (67).

First-round leader Chesson Hadley posted a 69 on Friday and is tied at 11 under with Harry Higgs (64), Troy Merritt (65) and China’s Zecheng Dou (66).

The highlight of Griffin’s round was a 65 1/2-foot eagle putt from just off the green at the par-5 14th hole. It moved him into a tie for the lead, and birdies at Nos. 15 and 17 gave him a good cushion entering the weekend.

“I stepped back off of (his second shot at No. 14) and kind of hit a little bit of a thin 3-wood I would say, but it still chased up there and went all the way to the back of the green from 65, 70 feet,” Griffin said. “I’m just trying to lag it, and it was just a bonus to see it drop. But that’s what has to happen out here when you have those low 60s kind of days.”

Griffin, 27, has yet to win on the PGA Tour and earned just one top-10 finish in all of 2022-23. However, he ranked a respectable 66th in the FedEx Cup Fall standings entering the week and could crack the top 60 with a win.

That would qualify Griffin for two of the tour’s signature events next winter: the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Genesis Invitational.

Griffin isn’t thinking that far ahead. He just wants to capitalize on a particular motivating factor for winning a tournament named after a poultry producer.

“I’m primarily vegan. I’m plant-based, so it’s the Sanderson Farms tournament, so it’s kind of a funny one,” Griffin said. “I just want the headline to say, ‘Vegan wins chicken championship.’ I mean, it’s bad. This is bad. But I’ve got to be honest with you guys, that’s kind of a motivator for me. I think it would be kind of funny of a headline if I get it done.”

Endycott, 27, had an eagle of his own when he holed out from 81 yards away at the par-5 third. He finished his round on the front nine with three straight birdies and needed just 24 total putts to finish 18 holes.

“I think I was dead last in putting (at his last tournament) after Friday and (it) wasn’t like I was putting bad,” Endycott said. “It felt a lot closer than what it was. They just weren’t going in.

“When the coach rang me and said, ‘What’s going on?’ I don’t know. Like they’re just not going in. So did some really good work over the last couple weeks.”

Yuan went out in 30 thanks to six birdies, but he petered out with one birdie and a closing bogey on the back nine.

“I kind of just kept my head down, trying to go one hole, one shot at a time, just picking really smart targets and swinging aggressively,” Yuan said. “Yeah, it turned out good. I know I have the game, and I’ve just got to stay patient and have fun out there.”

Ludvig Aberg of Sweden, the only Ryder Cup participant in this week’s field, is tied for 16th at 8 under after shooting a 69 on Friday.

The 36-hole cut came at 5 under par. Sam Bennett (4 under), who was the low amateur at this year’s Masters, missed the cut. So did the tournament’s defending champion, Mackenzie Hughes of Canada (4 under), and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo (1 under), the highest-ranked player (No. 35) in the field based on world ranking.

–Field Level Media

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