Ryan Palmer made seven birdies on Friday at PGA National for a 5-under-par 65 that moved him into a tie for the lead with Wesley Bryan at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Bryan, a PGA Tour rookie, shot a 67 and was a 9-under 131 after 36 holes along with Palmer.
Rickie Fowler was one stroke behind after a second consecutive 66. Anirban Lahiri was fourth, one shot in back of Fowler, after a 68.
Palmer is just happy to be back on the golf course. His wife, Jennifer, was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer last July and he went home to help take care of her and their two children while she underwent chemotherapy.
"When you get inside the ropes, everything kind of goes away. You enjoy those four or five hours," Palmer said. "It helps make golf less aggravating at times. You realize it's just a game we're playing."
His wife is recovering and so is Palmer's game after the long layoff. Putting has proved to be the biggest problem.
"On the greens, all hell broke loose," he said.
Now he feels like he's coming to grips with his stroke after working with Dave Stockton. Palmer has 13 birdies and four bogeys in two rounds this week.
One of those birdies came in the second round when he drained a 43-foot putt on the par-4 13th hole.
"You have to drive the ball well and you have to hit your irons well. It's been my strength the last few years," said Palmer, the Honda runner-up three years ago. "You don't have to shoot 7 under par each day. If you break par on this golf course, you're going to be in contention on the weekend."
Bryan pulled into a tie for the lead with a birdie on No. 18. That offset a bogey at No. 13 when he had to escape trees.
"Don't like making bogeys, but any time you find yourself using a putter out of the trees for your second shot, it's not good," he said. "Glad to settle for bogey there and glad to get one on 18, tied for the lead going into the weekend."
Fowler is right where he was last year after two rounds with back-to-back 66s. He fell out of contention in the final two rounds in 2016, but he thinks this year could be different.
"I feel like it's time for me to start finishing off some more events when I am in this position," Fowler said.