While Tiger Woods had to work hard to make the projected cut at the Frys.com Open, Britain's Paul Casey charged into a one-shot lead in Friday's fog-delayed second round.
Just five days after winning the Korean Golf Tour's Shinhan Donghae Open, Casey fired a sparkling seven-under-par 64 in dazzling afternoon sunshine to take charge at CordeValle Golf Club.
The English world number 20, the highest-ranked player in the field at the PGA Tour's Fall Series event, racked up eight birdies and a sole bogey to post an eight-under total of 134.
That left him one ahead of American Bud Cauley, who carded a six-birdie 66, and South African Ernie Els, who was five under for the round with two holes to play.
Early morning fog had delayed the scheduled start by two hours and 20 minutes and 53 players were yet to complete the second round when play was halted for the day in fading light.
Among those were American Troy Matteson, after 16 holes, and Australian Nathan Green, after 17, who were level at six under with Garrett Willis, who shot a 69 on the scenic layout situated in the rolling foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Former world number one Woods, who had opened with an erratic 73 in his first tournament appearance in almost two months, returned a 68 to lie seven strokes off the pace.
Having struggled on the greens in mainly wet and cold conditions the previous day, Woods mixed six birdies with three bogeys for a one-under total with the cut projected at even par.
I don't like missing cuts, period, the 14-times major champion told reporters after making his first 36-hole cut on the PGA Tour since the Masters in April. I've got a shot at it this weekend.
Today I didn't hit the ball as good as I did yesterday but I putted better. That was a good positive.
My 'feels' are coming back, said Woods, who has not competed since he missed the cut at the PGA Championship in August. All the balls are pin high which is a very good sign.
Casey, like Woods, has struggled with injury this season, and he was delighted to surge to the top of the leaderboard after only recently resolving a lingering toe problem.
It's probably the best I've hit the golf ball all year, Casey said after deciding to return to the PGA Tour for the next two weeks to complete the minimum 15 events required to maintain his card for next season.
Even though the toe isn't 100 percent, it's great news. I've had it since late May. It was a joint in my foot which wasn't allowing my foot to move correctly and that put pressure on my toe.
My goal right now is to get healthy, and I am probably about 70 percent (fully fit). 2011 has been a frustrating year.
Casey began the day three strokes off the pace but he set the tone for his round when he rolled in a 28-footer from just off the green to birdie the par-three 11th, his second hole.
After offsetting a birdie at the 13th with a bogey at the 14th, he picked up further shots at the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th to race to the turn in five-under 31.
Casey, who sank three birdie putts from more than 24 feet during the round, rolled in a seven-footer to birdie the par-four sixth and claim the outright lead at seven under.
The 34-year-old Englishman very nearly birdied the eighth, his long-range attempt ramming the back of the cup before lipping out, but he signed off in style with a two-putt birdie at the par-five ninth.
The back nine, my front nine this morning, the greens were perfect, Casey said. You're not going to get greens any better than that.
My ball striking is coming back. It's by no means perfect but it's nice to look up and know that the golf ball is actually going in the direction that I wanted it to go in, which hasn't happened in a really long time.