Sergio Garcia shot a seven-under 64 and quietly climbed up to the top of the leaderboard at the halfway mark. His post-round interview was three pages of boring platitudes, so I’m not even going to subject you to quotes about how he hopes to play well the next couple of days to give himself a shot at winning.
However, even though there are two more rounds to play, it’s a bit amusing that Sergio is leading the Deutsche Bank Championship, which is run by the Tiger Woods Foundation — and also benefits from the tournament’s proceeds. It would be even more amusing if Sergio does end up winning. I mean, that might be an interesting trophy presentation, especially if Tiger has to attend the ceremony. Awwwk-ward.
Meanwhile, after Henrik Stenson‘s one-week slump last week at The Barclays, the first of four legs in the FedExCup Playoffs, where he finished T42, the Swede fired an eight-under 63, 12-under total, to trail Garcia by just one shot. Stenson has been in contention nearly every week the past two months. In his last five starts, he’s finished in the top 3 four times — 3rd at the Scottish Open, 2nd at the Open Championship, tied for 2nd at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and 3rd at the PGA Championship.
It’s hard to be disappointed with that record, but it must be a tad frustrating to come so close that many times. But he’s putting himself in contention and eventually it’ll be his week. He’s due.
“If I backtrack those four great weeks I had, the only one I was disappointed with was the Scottish Open. I had a two-shot lead and didn’t play my best on Sunday. And Phil came back after a bad start and won the tournament in a playoff. But that was kind of the one I felt like I let go. The other ones, not really.
“I played a good round at the British. Phil had a phenomenal finish. Akron, it was a horse race there. I was seven behind teeing off with Tiger and that’s not going to happen around Akron.
“And at the PGA, I was one or two shots behind Jim (Furyk) and Jason (Dufner). Jason was bogey-free, four-under through 16 or something and I would have needed to throw a round out like I did when I won (The Players) in ’09…
“I’ve got no disappointment out of that. Obviously I can’t look at my crystal ball here and see what’s going to happen the next few days. Of course you’re disappointed if you lose the tournament, but in my case here, those tournaments have been won by some good players…
“Like I said, I’m very optimistic about the future, I feel like I have more to get out of my game. If I can put myself in that situation in the future and have a little bit more to give, I can come out with a finish like Phil did at the British or like Jason did at the PGA.”
I like his attitude and it’d be great to see him pull it off this week at TPC Boston.
Matt Kuchar, along with two of this season’s major champs, Jason Dufner and Justin Rose, are also near the top of the loaded leaderboard. Rose matched Stenson’s eight-under 63 to get to nine-under through 36 holes. Kuchar and Dufner are tied for fourth at ten-under.
“Today there were a lot of putts made from 8-10 feet,” said Rose, who won the U.S. Open in June. “I hit the ball close all day, but I still made some good putts. I felt very good about the putting today. Obviously, I also just kept a very clean, solid round of golf. It came out of nowhere, as well. I felt kind of lethargic, felt like I was plodding around and then all of a sudden I looked at the scoreboard and I was doing okay.”
After flirting with golf’s magic number on Friday, Phil Mickelson’s second round was an entirely different story. It was a classic Phil round, where he spent lots of quality time with the fans in the trees yet managed to scramble and limit the damage. It really could have been a lot worse, but he escaped with an even-par 71 to drop back to a tie for ninth.
“That was one of my best numbers right there, because I was playing terrible,” said Phil following his round. “And I shot even par. I fought hard. And throughout 72 holes, throughout the course of my career, it happens, where you kind of lose it a little bit. I fought hard in the interim and was able to find it there in the end to give me confidence heading into the weekend.
“But more than that, it kept me within striking distance. I could have easily shot myself out of the tournament today. I got it in the hazard I don’t even know how many times.”
On Friday, he missed his drive left on no. 9 and then on Saturday, he missed it just as badly but to the right and ended up in the hazard, but that’s a hole that’s historically given him problems off the tee.
“It’s tough because it’s embarrassing to hit shots like that, and to have a bunch of people out there playing with Tiger and having every shot exposed on TV, you know, it’s embarrassing,” said Phil (but it’s just Phil being Phil and what makes him Phil the Thrill!). “But we all have our moments like that. And you just have to deal with it.
“But the way I was able to birdie the last couple, figure it out, I’m excited about the weekend.”
Then, on no. 11, Phil pulled off the shot of the day.
At the end of the day, it could have been much worse and he could have shot himself out of the tournament, but he dug deep.
“I thought that was actually one of my better moments there, because it could have easily gone away, some of the shots I was hitting,” said Mickelson, who won this event in 2007. “And I feel like the game actually just turned around the last few holes. I’m looking forward to this weekend. I feel like I have the direction now I was looking for ballstriking wise, and I’m putting really good.”
Mickelson is ranked third this week in strokes gained putting.
Tiger Woods shot four-under 67 to stay just six shots off the pace heading into the final two rounds. Woods couldn’t buy a putt on Saturday, burning edges and just having problems with the speed. Oh, they were also bumpy at the end of the day, of course.
“I had a hard time hitting the putts hard enough,” he said. “They were a little slower this afternoon, obviously with the mist coming in, it definitely slowed it up. But still, I just didn’t hit them hard enough. And they were snagging at the grain a little bit at the end. And a couple of putts I thought I poured, but they got snagged at the end.”
However, Woods drained a 35-footer for birdie on 18 to ease the frustration a bit and make dinner taste a little better.
“It was nice to get,” he said. “I had a terrible tee shot up there and laid up to a good number, couldn’t blast that flier. I was hoping to skip it up there and make my work out. Basically the only putt I made all day so it was kind of nice.”
So, what are his chances of catching up to the leaders and contending on Sunday? Well, he has to go low tomorrow and he’s repeatedly talked about how gettable the course is with the soft conditions.
“I’m going to have to go low,” said Woods, who entered the week ranked first in FedExCup points. “It is what it is. There’s so many guys up there. This golf course is soft. It’s gettable. And I know they tried to put the pins in more difficult spots. But when it’s warm like this, the ball is flying. We’re hitting 3-woods 300-plus yards. It’s going to play shot. If that’s the case with soft greens, you can get after this golf course.”
Steve Stricker, who came out of semi-retirement again this week, is really hoping to make the Presidents Cup on points instead of relying on a captain’s pick. And the Deutsche Bank Championship is the last chance for players on the bubble to make moves in the points rankings.
Stricker, who played a limited schedule this year, is currently ranked 11th in points. The top 10 at the conclusion of this event receive automatic berths on the U.S. team.
“I have mixed emotions,” he said. “I’d love to part of the team. I told Freddie I want to make this team on my own merit. I’m not going to play the Tour Championship for sure. I don’t want to make anybody feel uncomfortable that I’m not playing a lot if I make the team or I’m a pick. I don’t know. I’m not really quite sure of my feelings. I feel like I can help. I feel like I can be part of the team.
“But a lack of play … I don’t know. I’m struggling with that,” he said. “I don’t want to put any pressure on Freddie or anyone else.”
Like the situation last year at the Ryder Cup when he was one of Captain Davis Love III’s wildcard picks and he ended up playing awful. Perhaps Stricker is also looking for a bit of redemption from his disappointing performance at the last team event.
Stricker would likely have to finish in the top 10 to overcome Zach Johnson for the 10th spot. He’s currently T9 at the halfway mark.
Let’s go, Stricks! After all, it might be his last chance to represent Team USA in a team event.
The Bubble Boys! So, who’s been eliminated from advancing to the third leg of the FedExCup Playoffs? Here’s this chart from the PGA Tour…
|Player||Entering Playoffs||Projected||36 holes|
|Jordan Spieth||No. 8||No. 10||T6|
|Russell Henley||No. 24||No. 40||T62|
|David Lingmerth||No. 45||No. 77||MC|
|Luke Guthrie||No. 72||Eliminated||MC|
|Derek Ernst||No. 74||Eliminated||MC|
|James Hahn||No. 101||Eliminated||—|
|Morgan Hoffman||No. 111||Eliminated||—|
|D.H. Lee||No. 114||Eliminated||—|
|Scott Langley||No. 124||Eliminated||—|
(AP Photo/Steve Milne)