CROMWELL – (Staff Report) – Up and down.
Up and down is a term near and dear to golf professionals who make a living “getting up and down” after an errant tee or approach shot, often saving par when other – mere mortal golfers – would take a bogey or worse.
First round leader and defending tournament champion Jordan Spieth has had his ups and downs on the PGA Tour this season, including a 78-71 (+9) “Miss the Cut” at last week’s U.S. Open. But when the 2015 Masters, U.S. Open, and FedEx Cup winner teed-it-up at 7:50 Friday morning for his second round at TPC River Highlands, he was fresh off a blazing 63 opening round and was primed to connect four consecutive sub-70 rounds of golf. While scoring conditions were near perfect, a triple-bogey 8 on the 13th hole side-tracked Spieth’s round and a bogey on the 15th to register +4 on his way out compounded the damage, as the 24-year old played the back nine along with Marc Leishman and Russell Knox at the Travelers Championship.
“So what is it? No. 13,” said Spieth in rhetoric fashion, asking about a golf hole he knows all too well. “For whatever reason, it’s a large fairway but it’s always just killed me. I hit one out of bounds last year. I hit one in the water last year. I don’t know what it is about the hole, but that hole, I get on the tee and for whatever reason, I struggle.
“I lined up a little right of where I wanted to play today to play the fade, and I didn’t adjust my alignment and, kind of, over-corrected. I don’t have great control of the golf ball, and I didn’t yesterday, either. I just hit a bad shot at the wrong time there.”
The troublesome holes early in his round have been a problem for Spieth of late, currently ranked 38th on the annual FedEx Cup standings leaderboard.
“Honestly, I’ve been used to it,” said the Dallas native and 11-time winner on the PGA Tour. “I’ve had a lot of bad holes early in my round for some reason. It shouldn’t change the game plan at all. In fact, it should even more so – it should push my plan which was to let the golf course come and play center of the greens. It was just an execution error. So there’s not much I can do about that except for go ground and figure it out.”
After trading a couple shots of birdie-bogey on the 1st and 2nd, on his way out, and flirting with a +5 over round for the day, Spieth rallied with an eagle when he played his 15th hole of the round, a 574-yard par-5 (6th hole), regaining the form he displayed just a day before. After a 312-yard drive on a slight dog-leg right, the long-hitter placed his second shot within 21-inches of the hole, clobbering a 276-yard approach shot with his 21-degree hybrid wood.
The result? An opening round of 63 turned into a Friday of 73, three-over par and tied for 19th on the tournament leaderboard as he headed to the clubhouse midday.
At that time, Brian Harmon claimed the clubhouse lead with 64-66, (-10) for the tournament while Bryson DeChambeau carded a pair of 66s for (-8), tied with Paul Casey with the likes of Matt Jones, Russell Henley and Zach Johnson on the course.
Fourteen-time PGA Tour winner, The Open and two-time PGA Champion Rory McIlroy finished T-5th mid-round with 64-69.