MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Bob Estes didn't want to lose any ground a day after tying the course record, and he wound up pushing his lead to four strokes with a 5-under-par 66 Friday in the second round of the St. Jude Classic.
Estes led by three strokes before turning in a six-birdie, one-bogey round. His 15-under 127 total was just a stroke off what John Cook did here in 1996, which had stood as a PGA Tour record until Mark Calcavecchia's 125 at the Phoenix Open earlier this year.
Only Scott McCarron came close to challenging Estes on the TPC at Southwind course that remained so wet from rain earlier this week that golfers played using lift, clean and place rules for a second straight day. McCarron got to 13 under before finishing with a 65, and was tied with Brent Schwarzrock (67) and Jesper Parnevik (64) at 131.
Two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange, who missed qualifying for the Open earlier this week and has missed six of seven cuts this year, followed an opening-round 65 with a 67 and was five shots back.
Phil Mickelson was among those missing the cut at 3 under. He was at 1-under in missing his third cut this year and first since the Nissan Open in February.
Low scores are the rule at this tournament sponsored by FedEx, something Estes knows well from having played here 12 previous times. After getting such a quick start with 10 birdies Thursday, he wanted to push his total as low as possible as he tries to emulate his performance in 1994 when he led wire-to-wire at the Texas Open for his only tour victory.
Estes started on the back nine in the third group off the No. 10 tee. He scrambled out of a bunker and saved par on No. 10 before getting himself going with his irons. He hit an 8-iron to 11 feet from the hole on the par-3 11th, then sank the putt for his first birdie before stringing together seven straight pars.
But Estes didn't lose any patience, knowing that the front nine features the easier scoring holes. The man who switched to a new Odyssey putter on Monday quickly birdied four of the first five holes to get to 15-under with his closest putt a 6-footer on the par-4 2nd.
He dropped a shot on the par-4 6th when he misread a 4-footer and pushed it past the hole but birdied the par-4 7th with a 20-footer.
Divots: Estes' four-stroke lead after 36 holes is the largest lead in this tournament since Al Geiberger led by six strokes in 1977. ... A day after four players did not start the tournament, two more withdrew. Rich Beem and Joey Sindelar got out after shooting 72s Thursday. ... John Daly, who used to own a house on this course, survived the cut here for the first time since 1998 at 8 under. That gives him a chance at his best finish ever in Memphis. His best was a tie for 16th in 1993.