Jon Rahm makes 8 birdies Friday, leads by 2 at the Mexico Open at Vidanta

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When Jon Rahm was asked to name his favorite shot from his second-round 66 at the Mexico Open at Vidanta, he didn’t have to think hard. There were eight birdies to choose from but the reigning U.S. Open champion locked in on his tee shot to 3 feet at the par-3 ninth hole.

“The 6-iron was perfect,” Rahm said.

Rahm’s card on Friday at Vidanta Vallarta contained a few hiccups along the way – three bogeys were scattered at Nos. 2, 10 and 16 – but eight birdies were good enough to build a two-stroke lead over rookie Alex Smalley at the halfway point of Mexico’s national championship, which dates to 1944.

“I feel like I might be a little bit more satisfied with today’s score than yesterday,” Rahm said. “Yesterday I felt like I was really under control and relatively speaking stress free, right? Today was a bit more of a grind, but still a really good round of golf.”

Rahm’s round began on a high note with a 28-foot birdie putt at the first, but he sprayed his driver at the second right, chipped out sideways and failed to save par. Then he bounced back with a 15-foot birdie putt at the third and tacked on two more birdies at six and nine to grab sole possession of the lead. Four birdies on the back nine were offset by two bogeys to stake him to the 36-hole lead at 12-under 130.

“Is it a surprise?” PGA Tour SiriusXM Radio analyst Mark McCumber said. “I don’t think so.”

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Rahm is seeking his first win since last June at the U.S. Open. He hasn’t missed a cut since the Fortinet Championship at the season-opener in September, but has dropped to World No. 2 and hasn’t recorded a top-10 in his last four stroke-play starts.

By Rahm’s high standard, it qualifies as a slump. But Rahm, the heavy favorite this week, looks hungry to get back into the winner’s circle in a country where he already has notched two third-place showings at the WGC-Mexico Championship at Chapultepec, and is seeking his seventh Tour title.

“I can’t really complain about anything I’m doing right now, so hopefully I can keep that good ball-striking going and keep rolling it the way I have,” he said.