Chasing history and his elusive major form at the same time, Jordan Spieth shot a 4-under-par 66 on Friday to charge into second place at 5 under following the morning wave of the second round of the 101st PGA Championship in Farmingdale, N.Y.
Spieth is attempting to become just the sixth player to win the career grand slam, but he entered the week without a top 20 finish this year and having slid to No. 39 in the world rankings.
Spieth, who is third on the PGA Tour in second-round scoring this season, opened on the back nine Friday. He traded a pair of birdies and bogeys before catching fire after making his turn. Spieth birdied the first hole and then poured in three more birdies in posting a 4-under 31 for his final nine holes.
Finishing well before Brooks Koepka was scheduled to take the course, Spieth was in the clubhouse just two shots behind the overnight leader as rain and heavier winds rolled over Bethpage Black. He is one shot clear of world No. 1 Dustin Johnson (67 on Friday) and Daniel Berger (66).
“Just trying to get a little bit better than yesterday,” Spieth told TNT of his mindset entering the second round. “Just try to feel like I have good control of the club, good timing, good rhythm to the swing. And it was nice to roll in a few putts, too.”
Spieth hasn’t posted a top 10 finish since last year’s Open Championship, but has insisted all week that his game is coming together.
“It’s less of what could go wrong, and it’s more of just trying to force things,” Speith said when asked what some of his mental hurdles have been. “And I feel like I didn’t do that. And on this golf course, you can’t. It requires more patience, which is nice because that feeds into what I’m trying to do.”
D.J.’s run stalls
Also starting on the back nine, Johnson bogeyed No. 10 before going on a tear that included five birdies over a seven-hole stretch to get to 5 under. His charged stalled with a couple of short missed putts, as Johnson was 1-over par over his final 10 holes.
“I felt like I did a really good job today,” Johnson, who has hit 30 of 36 greens this week, told TNT. “I hit the ball really, really well… gave myself a lot of looks at birdie. Made some nice putts, but missed quite a few short ones. The greens are really tricky to read … lot of subtle breaks.
“I’m pleased with the score again and pleased with how I played.”
Berger did not enter the week on many people’s radars, but did share the 54-hole lead at last year’s U.S. Open and posted his 66 despite hitting only half the fairways.
“My short game was really on point today,” he said. “You gotta chip and putt well around here because you’re going to not hit a lot of fairways, and that’s what I did today.
“It’s a long week, 72 holes of extremely difficult golf. You’re not gonna hit a ton of perfect shots, but your bad shots have to be a little bit better than everyone else’s.”
South Korea’s Sung Kang, who has now made the cut in all six of his career majors, reached 4 under before bogeys on his final two holes. Also at 2 over is New Zealand’s Danny Lee, who shot a 74 on Friday – 10 shots worse than his opening round.
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy was 5 over through six holes and 7 over for the tournament through 12 holes on Friday. He then reeled off four birdies over a five-hole stretch to get back to 3 over. He is tied with Australia’s Jason Day, who got back to 3 over with a birdie on his final hole after a stretch of three bogeys in four holes.
“I just needed one putt to go in, just to see something go into the bottom of the hole,” said McIlroy, who made less than 50 feet in total putts on Thursday but more than 100 on Friday. “That was at the fourth hole, and from there I started to play some good golf.
“My goal was just to be here for the weekend and it looks like I’ve done that, which is nice.”
Koepka entered Friday 62-under par in majors since the start of the 2016 PGA Championship – 22 shots better than anyone else.
–Derek Harper (@DerekAHarper), Field Level Media