Patrick Rodgers remains two shots clear with 18 holes to play in the John Deere Classic. The purse is the smallest on the PGA Tour for events that offer full FedEx Cup points.
Rodgers, the 25-year-old former Stanford star who is winless on the PGA Tour, has followed the formula that many players have used to win at TPC Deere Run - converting makeable birdies and largely avoiding mistakes.
Co-leader Howell has an astonishing record of near-misses on tour with 16 runner-up finishes to accompany his two victories.His latest second-placing came two weeks ago at the Quicken Loans National, where he putted so well it "scared" him.
As such he represents the in-form, class act on the leaderboard and, unlike Rodgers, does not have the added pressure of battling for one available place in the Open Championship having already secured his spot.
Daniel Berger shot a 63 to match Scott Stallings (64) at 14 under. Stallings is a three-time PGA Tour victor, but it is three-and-a-half years since the most recent of those successes.
The 25-year-old is yet to secure his first PGA Tour victory, yet a seven-under-par 64 in IL saw him take a two-stroke buffer over fellow American Bryson DeChambeau.
Patrick Rodgers carded an nearly flawless seven-under-par 64 to take a two-shot lead at the John Deere Classic after two rounds.
Four other golfers, including Cedar Rapids, Iowa native Zach Johnson, are just two shots back entering round two on Friday.
Rodgers tied Woods' college record at Stanford University in his younger years after winning 11 amateur tournaments - matching the tally of the 14-time major victor.
Starting on the back nine, Rodgers carded birdies at the 14th and 16th from 17 and 13 feet before tapping in for another gain on the 17th.
Tway's round, the best of his career, was highlighted by a 28-foot birdie putt on the forgiving third hole.
Charles Howell III and Ollie Schniederjans each shot 8-under 63 in ideal morning conditions Thursday to share the first-round lead in the John Deere Classic at Silvis, Ill. If we're going to be doing this for 15 more years, I'm not too anxious about the first couple years.
Kevin Tway, also at nine under, shot an eight-under 63.
This tournament normally sees something around 22 under for the victor, and he knows he'll have to keep the gas down with guys like Zach Johnson, Charles Howell III and DeChambeau chasing.
England's Sam Horsfield, who came through qualifying to take his place in the field, is the leading European after a five-under 66 left him tied for seventh.