Here we go again: Jordan Spieth has played his way into contention at his fourth major in a row. The Masters and U.S. Open champion posted a solid five-under 67 in the second round of the PGA Championship to vault his way up the leaderboard, where he currently sits in a tie for third at six-under for the tournament.
Spieth, who played in very difficult and breezy conditions on Thursday afternoon, was pleased to get some relief on Friday morning on a much easier golf course. He estimated that it was at least a three-shot difference.
“It was definitely gettable today,” he said. “Got off to a good start making birdie on my second hole, and then the one on 18 was a great spark to get things going, get a little confidence, a little pep in my step. I was staring 1-over on the round down and instead make the turn in 2-under. So that was a nice kind of two-shot swing in one shot. Then I was able to take advantage on the front.”
Spieth was plodding around Whistling Straits quietly when he nearly chipped in for eagle on the par-5 16th. He tapped-in for birdie. Two holes later on the most difficult of all at Whistling Straits, the par-4 18th, Spieth had a difficult shot out of a greenside bunker. No big deal for him, though. He hit a spectacular shot that fell into the cup for a birdie to give him momentum heading into his second nine.
Spieth actually got a tip from some local caddies he spoke with earlier in the week. They told him that particular bunker he was in, along with another one, always have much more sand than the rest of the bunkers on the course. Spieth, who hit hybrid on his second shot, knew that his ball wouldn’t plug if it went into the bunker and he didn’t want to be long left due to where the pin was today.
“I hit it over there and I thought it was going to be okay, just be in the flat (part of the bunker),” explained Spieth. “And it ended up being kind of against the back lip, because it didn’t hit firm, it hit soft into there.
“We were thinking about playing 10 feet out to the right just given my back swing. It had to be almost straight up and straight down. The chances of hitting that the right way are so slim you could easily catch that thin and then oyu’re left with a very likely double bogey.
“So I lined up a little to the right and as I took it back just tried to kind of cut across it a bit. I just struck it absolutely perfectly. It was sitting nicely on top of the sand, to where it was possible, but no, I was not looking to make that. I would have taken four and walked off a very, very happy guy.”
Spieth has 16 holed-out chips this season. He can’t explain why he has so many because he’s too modest to say that he just has a better short game than most.
“I don’t know how that compares to anybody else, it may not — that may be a normal number,” said Spieth. “If it’s high, then I don’t know. Good lies, I guess. The pins seem to be soft when I hit chip shots sometimes. The ones that are hit a little hard seem to somehow find a way to rail the pin and drop, not just hit it and go to the side. So, yeah, I mean, the fact that they go in versus settling close to the hole is a bit of luck and I’ll take it.”
Though Spieth has played his way into contention, he still feels like he has some work to do on his game, particularly with his driving. He hasn’t been pleased with that aspect of his game and has been hitting some quick draws, which is strange for him.
“I haven’t had that really this whole year,” he said. “So I was kind of just trying to guide the ball off the tee.”
At the same time, Spieth was happy with his iron play and his putting — he only needed 24 putts.
“But in order to keep shooting the rounds like today, I’m going to need to drive the ball a little bit better and make a few more putts, which are really the two keys for me this weekend because it’s just going to get more challenging with pin locations and firmness of greens.”
David Lingmerth followed his five-under 67 in the first round with a two-under 70 to take the clubhouse lead. Matt Jones has also gotten to seven-under for the tournament, but he’s only four holes into his round.