Leishman signed for matching nines of 2-under to climb to 10-under through 36 holes and share top spot alongside American Brian Harman.
The limited field event is reserved only for winners on the Tour in the previous season, Leishman and Queensland’s Cameron Smith the only Australian representatives.
Smith recovered from an opening 75 at the par-73 Plantation course at Kapalua to shoot a second round 70 and at 1-under for the week is T24 I the 34-man field.
World Number Two Jordan Spieth, who endured a horror Thursday of 75, hit back with an impressive 7-under 66 though remains well off the pace at 5-under and T13.
World Number One Dustin Johnson, a previous winner of the tournament, is one off the lead at 9-under after a second round 68. Americans Pat Perez and Chris Stroud share fourth alongside Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela.
Already under pressure on the leaderboard when he hit off in the last group of the day Leishman birdied both front nine par-3s though couldn’t capitalise on the opportunities at either of the par-5s.
Gains at the par-4 14th and the par-5 last saw Leishman maintain a share of the lead as he takes aim at a fourth PGA Tour title.
For Smith it was a case of two steps forward and one back, the 24-year-old mixing five birdies with two bogeys for his 70 in his first appearance at the winner’s only tournament.
Johnson produced the most exciting round of the day after dropping two shots in his first four holes.
Back to back bogeys at the third and fourth looked to have derailed the 33-year-olds tournament but he caught fire with three birdies to turn 1-under.
The big hitting American added four more on the back nine and will be considered the biggest threat to the co-leaders as the weekend rounds unfold.
RACHEL BAILEY ON CARRY V ROLL WHEN CHIPPING:
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