Alex Noren remains in front, NCAA champ lurking among 2023 Butterfield Bermuda Championship second-round takeaways

It’s time for the weekend in Bermuda.

The second round of the 2023 Butterfield Bermuda Championship is (almost) complete, as three groups remain on the course before the round will officially be completed.

However, the name at the top is the same as it was after the first round.

Alex Noren has had a stellar start at Port Royal Golf Club in Southampton, and he takes the lead into the weekend after setting a tournament scoring record through 36 holes. It’s also his best 36-hole start on the PGA Tour.

However, chasing him are numerous golfers looking to secure their cards for next year and those looking for their first victory, too.

Butterfield BermudaPhotos

Here’s what you need to know from the second day at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.

Alex Noren remains in front

2023 Butterfield Bermuda Championship
Alex Noren of Sweden hits a tee shot on the ninth hole during the second round of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course on November 10, 2023 in Southampton, Bermuda. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Alex Noren has the best round of his Tour career Thursday in the opening round of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.

Early on, it looked as if he could replicate that performance in the second round. Noren birdied his first three holes but then cooled off, making 11 straight pars before adding birdies on Nos. 15 and 17 to shoot 5-under 66. He leads alone at 15-under 127 thru 36 holes.

“Like yesterday was probably the best I played in, I mean, five years or 10 years, I don’t know,” Noren said. “But today I hit it, the wedges came up 15 feet instead of 5 and had a bunch of tap-ins yesterday. The greens are, it’s quite a lot of slope and quite a lot of grain. The first three birdies I just kind of rolled in and then it was a little trickier, but I’m happy with 5 under.”

Noren has a two-shot lead over Ryan Moore, Satoshi Kodaira and Ryan Brehm. Camilo Villegas, who held the 36-hole lead last week in Mexico, is three shots back at 12 under and solo fifth.

With calmer conditions on the island through the first two rounds, Noren is hoping the winds picks up this weekend. He brings on the challenge of playing in gusty conditions.

“Like this or a little bit more would be nice,” he said.

Chase for PGA Tour cards

2023 Butterfield Bermuda Championship
Satoshi Kodaira of Japan hits from the 14th fairway during the second round of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course on November 10, 2023 in Southampton, Bermuda. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The trio tied for second all have something in common: they need a strong finish this week to get into the FedEx Cup top 125.

Moore came into the week No. 140. Kodaira was No. 168. Brehm sat No. 178.

Now? Moore is projected No. 108, Kodaira No. 126 and Brehm No. 132.

“My caddie and I were joking yesterday that it might have been the worst I’ve hit a golf ball in the last like three months, but I made putts,” Moore said. “When I did get out of position, I made a couple great par-saving putts and knocked in a couple 15-, 20-footers, and that’s just all the difference. I controlled it well enough to not get myself in too much trouble, but man, I’ve been hitting it really, really nice the last few weeks, and yesterday was actually a little bit of a shock, especially off the tee for me.

“So, you know, that honestly, weirdly gave me some confidence that it’s funny you do that sometimes and you shoot a good score and you realize, oh, don’t have to be perfect to shoot a good round of golf or to shoot 6, 7 under and it’s kind of what I’ve done the last couple days.”

Although Brehm is exempt through next season as a recent winner, Moore’s top 50 career money exemption runs out this year, and Kodaira also doesn’t have a guaranteed card next year. The duo each need to maintain their positions at the top of the leaderboard, and everything is on the line.

NCAA champ lurking

2023 Butterfield Bermuda Championship
Fred Biondi of Brazil hits a tee shot on the tenth hole during the second round of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course on November 10, 2023 in Southampton, Bermuda. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Fred Biondi had a difficult decision to make this summer.

He won the NCAA individual title with Florida before helping the Gators capture the team title. The individual win included exemptions into the 2023 U.S. Open and 2024 Masters, if he remained an amateur.

Instead, Biondi turned pro. He played primarily on the Korn Ferry Tour this summer and has status for next year, as well, based off his finish in the PGA Tour University standings last year.

This week, however, he’s looking to breakthrough on the PGA Tour.

Biondi shot 7-under 64 on Friday to move to 10 under for the tournament. Playing in a popular pairing with the past two U.S. Amateur champions, Sam Bennett and Nick Dunlap, Biondi shined Friday and is only five shots off the lead heading to the weekend.

This is only his fourth PGA Tour start, and he had yet to make a cut until this week. Now he’s got a chance to win another life-changing event.

How Carl Yuan possibly saved Tour card

2023 Butterfield Bermuda Championship
Carl Yuan of China hits a tee shot on the fourth hole during the second round of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course on November 10, 2023 in Southampton, Bermuda. (Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images)

What Carl Yuan did Friday might have saved his Tour card.

He started his round with a bogey at the first hole to move him to even par. Sitting at No. 134 in the FedEx Cup standings entering the week, Yuan was one of numerous golfers on the bubble trying to retain their cards for next season.

After the bogey, he was unflappable. Seven birdies and a hole-out eagle on the closing par-4 18th later, Yuan sits at 9 under heading into the weekend.

His projected FedEx Cup standing is three spots worse than when he started the week, but Yuan’s stellar round guaranteed him to earn some points this week, which is better than going home empty handed. A couple more strong rounds this weekend could either clinch his card for next year or help him get closer to the top 125 heading to next week’s RSM Classic.

Second round suspended because of darkness

2023 Butterfield Bermuda Championship
Scott Piercy of the United States plays a shot from a bunker on the 16th hole during the second round of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course on November 10, 2023 in Southampton, Bermuda. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

For the second straight day, play was suspended due to darkness. The horn sounded at 4:30 p.m. ET with nine golfers left on the course.

The second round will resume at 6 a.m. ET. After the conclusion of play, the cut will officially be made and tee times set for the third round.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek