After shooting a 63 Friday in the second round of the HP Classic, this year's visit to English Turn has a chance to be extra special for Verplank.
His 16-under 128 gave him a three-stroke lead and a 36-hole tournament record as the par-72, 7,116-yard course continued to yield low scores.
Brian Gay and Todd Barranger, players who have rarely made a cut this season, were tied for second.
Davis Love III and first-round co-leader Akio Sadakata, who shot a front-nine 29 Thursday, were among five players another stroke back.
Tommy Moore, Verplank's teammate at Oklahoma State, was the golf instructor at English Turn before he died of a rare blood disorder in 1998. Moore, who played on the PGA Tour from 1990-94, was 35.
Verplank said he had dinner with Tracy Moore, his widow, on Thursday night.
'Yeah, winning here would be extra cool because his widow is here and their son, and his mom and dad still live here,' said Verplank, who was two years behind Moore in school. 'He was kind of my guide through college, and we were roommates and good buddies. He had a pretty big influence on me.'
Verplank made nine birdies Friday, despite struggling with his accuracy off the tee.
'It was one of those days the hole kept getting in the way of my putts,' said Verplank, who has four career wins -- the last in 2001. 'When you continually make 10-15 footers it makes up for a lot of mess ups.'
While Verplank was cashing in with his putter, Love's kept letting him down.
Love two-putted the final six holes, including a bogey on 18. He shot a 67.
'I hit the ball real well, and today I didn't make as many putts,' said Love, who is looking for his fourth victory of the season. 'I actually misread a couple of putts and didn't hit a couple very good on that second nine, but all in all I'm playing pretty good.'
Most of his misses were from 8-15 feet and off by no more than a few inches. But if the tour's leading money winner was frustrated, it hardly showed. A slight head shake after his eight-footer on 17 failed to break left was as animated as the unflappable 39-year-old would get.
Gay had seven birdies and, like Love, dropped a shot with a bogey on 18 to finish his round. Though Gay's 18th could have been much worse.
He hooked his first shot into the water, then had a bad lie on his drop. He had to make a 14-foot putt just to make a 5 on the challenging 471-yard hole.
The day after the field made a tournament record 698 birdies, conditions were again nearly ideal.
The 5-under cut was the second lowest this season.
Phil Mickelson just made it, but local favorite and LSU alum David Toms (-3) and Masters runner-up Len Mattiace (-2) were not so fortunate.
'The par-5s are playing real short,' said rookie Mark Wilson, who shot a 67 and is tied for fourth. 'I'm not a long hitter at all and I hit a 5-iron into the island green par-5, so I can just imagine guys like Davis or Vijay [Singh] probably got an 8-iron on that green.'
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.