Danny Lee feels comfortable among the elite of world golf. He believes he is a good chance to become the first Kiwi to win on the regular PGA Tour since Phil Tataurangi, who won the Invensys Classic at Las Vegas in 2002 and since Michael Campbell's major win at the US Open in 2005.
"Yep, I can win this tournament," he said confidently, after posting a one over par 73 at Spyglass Hill Golf Club yesterday to be tied third in the prestigious AT&T Pebble Beach National pro-am tournament. "I am not too far away from the lead and if I play well, anything can happen and I will give it my best to win. Everything will be all right."
The New Zealand No1, who shot a nine under par 63 at Pebble Beach to share the clubhouse lead for the first round, has really made his mark on the US PGA circuit so far in this tournament - and looks comfortable at the top of a leaderboard which contains multiple major winners such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington and many more of the princes of modern golf.
Lee, a former US amateur champion, is on an eight under par total, four shots back from South Korean Charlie Wi (61, 69) who leads on 12 under par.
A host of big names, such as two-time champion Dustin Johnson, Vijay Singh, Harrington and Mickelson, are all in contention.
"It's good to know that back home, all of the people in New Zealand are rooting for me," said the 21-year-old Korean-born Kiwi. "I know that I have a lot of people supporting me and watching me on TV all the time. I get texts and emails from my friends encouraging me and it's nice to know that I have that kind of support from New Zealand. It means a lot and I want to play good for them."
Lee played solidly for the most part of the second round at Spy Glass to stay within one shot of the lead only to bogey two of the final three holes and drop back to a share of third place.
"It was playing really tough today. It was foggy this morning and I thought the course was playing really hard so I am not too unhappy with my round. The weather made it really hard for scoring."
He thinks that Monterey - the third of three courses used in the AT&T National alongside Pebble Beach and Spy Glass - will suit his eye like the famous US Open layout did on day one.
"It seems like the same sort of course as Pebble Beach actually - so I will go and try to play like I did there. I know that I need to keep attacking and making birdies. I feel comfortable out here. When I am in contention, I normally play well because I like to play attacking golf.
"I feel like I have come a long way. I am more experienced than I was a couple of years ago and that helps in the hard situations. This is the tour that I always wanted to play on, so it is great to be doing it every week. I am playing with the best golfers in the world and it is fun to be competing with them."
His only beef? No mince pies from back home.
"I really miss mince pies. They don't have them over here in America so I miss them quite a lot actually."
On a day when sunshine gave way to light rain, two things stayed the same - Charlie Wi was still atop the leaderboard and Woods didn't hole enough putts to make up ground. Wi escaped most of the rain at Pebble Beach, where he holed a wedge from the 13th fairway for eagle and limited the damage to a bogey on his final hole for a 3-under 69 that allowed him to open a three-shot lead in the three-course event.
Johnson was caught off guard by the rain in the worst way. He stood in the fourth fairway at Spyglass with a short-sleeve shirt, hands thrust in his pocket, as his caddie sent a friend running up the hill to the carpark to retrieve his rain gear. His short game let him down, and the two-time Pebble champion had to settle for a 72 that put him three back.
Harrington had a 66 at Pebble Beach and was among those tied for third. Harrington had five birdies in a six-hole stretch early in his round, the exception coming at the par-5 sixth.
Woods, meanwhile, again looked poised to make a move over at Monterey Peninsula. He missed a 5-foot birdie putt on No9 and failed to make birdie on the par-5 10th when he pulled his second shot into the gallery. He had to settle for a 2-under 68, leaving him six behind. Along the way, he stung his wrist hitting out of a divot and said he had to pop it back into the joint.
"No big deal," he said.
The bigger deal was putting. Woods took 33 putts on the Shore Course, which he attributed to leaving the ball in the wrong spot - mostly above the hole - and struggling with greens he felt were getting slightly more bumpy as a mist turned into light rain.
"It's very close," said Woods, playing this event for the first time in 10 years.
"I got my ball striking to where I feel very comfortable hitting the shots. I just need to make a couple of putts to get on a roll."
Next up for Woods is Pebble Beach, where he usually plays his best.