Jersey City, NJ- Liberty National played soft on a Thursday after a major storm dropped 1.5 inches of rain the prior night. That meant a high scoring opening round to The Northern Trust. More rain fell between Thursday night and Friday morning and round two matched round one in scoring. The result was a crowded leader board with impressive headliners. Six players sit in double digits and eleven players are within three strokes of the lead.
Dustin Johnson topped the board with a -4 round and a -12 two day total. He started poorly. His first drive found the bunker and he bogeyed. The South Carolinian rebounded quickly for birdies on 3 and 4. He parred the final five holes on the front and opened the back with two more pars. Picturesque approach shots led to birdies on 13, 15, and 18.
“I’ve got a lot of control with the golf ball and hitting a lot of really nice shots and rolled in a couple putts, which is nice, but still feel like I left quite a few out there” said Johnson.
One stroke behind him was the second round’s hottest hitter, Jordan Spieth. The 26 year old Texan recorded eight birdies and only one bogey for the low round of -7. He drew the biggest crowds with Tiger Woods out of the tournament and rewarded people with a show.
Four players sit at -10. Abraham Ancer shot up the board late in the day with four of his six birdies coming on his last six holes.
Patrick Reed also rode a late heater for a -5. Across two rounds, Reed hasn’t recorded a single bogey.
Jon Rahm overcame two birdies and poor feeling in his swing to save the round and notch a -3. “Swing did not feel good at all, but somehow I managed to keep the ball in play.”
The only disappointing -10 was the round one leader, Troy Merritt. He tied the course record with a -9 on Thursday and appeared in prime position moving forward. Merritt started well with birdies on 1 and 2. But he tapered off with his driving game and needed to scramble one too many times. It bit him for a bogey on 9 and a double bogey on 15. Play was delayed due to lightning immediately after his double and when play resumed, Merritt recovered for a birdie on 16. Unfortunately, he missed a short par putt on 18, ultimately bogeying his finale and falling to -10, two strokes back of the lead.
“I was just scratchy the last twelve holes, especially off the tee” said Merritt. “I got into some positions that you don’t really want to be in. Chipping and putting worked quite nicely on the back side and kept us right in it and right where we need to be going into the weekend.”
Five players have -9 scores: Andrew Putnam, Justin Rose, Louis Oosthuiezen, Wyndham Clark, and Rory McIlroy. Of those, Rory had the most interesting pathway to his score.
On the 14th hole, McIlroy hit a bunker on the green side. He went into the sand and reached down to move what he thought was a rock, but was a small clump of sand near his ball. In prior years, moving the ball touching the trap before your shot was not allowed at all and cost a stroke penalty. The rule was changed (12.1) and allowed to move rocks as long as the lie is not improved. Rory’s ball was not moved at all and after playing the final four holes thinking he had incurred a two-stroke penalty, the Tournament officials called the USGA and the penalty was overturned.
“I said to Harry (Diamond, his caddy) walking down 15, I want to look at the rule book whenever I get in. I’m not going to sign my card until I’m comfortable with the wording.”
Ultimately, Rory is part of a crowded leaderboard chasing Dustin Johnson going into the weekend at Liberty National.
Among the notable players missing the -1 Cut were Xander Schauffele, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Marc Leishman, Sam Ryder, Sergio Garcia, Russell Knox, and Bubba Watson.
Saturday Tee Times (all PM, ET)
- Justin Thomas- (-7), 12:35
- Louis Oosthuizen & Rory McIlroy- (-9), 1:15
- Patrick Reed & Jon Rahm- (-10), 1:35
- Abraham Ancer & Troy Merritt- (-10), 1:45
- Jordan Spieth (-11) & Dustin Johnson (-12), 1:55