5 Things: Garcia, field continue to torch TPC Boston
NORTON, Mass. – Forget the tea party. The tee party they’ve set up for the top 100 names in the FedEx Cup standings has been a fun, joyous occasion – at least for two days and at least if you prefer your golf tournaments jam-packed with birdies and low scores.
“Scoring conditions are really good,” said Matt Kuchar in an understatement of vintage proportions. He had just put together his second straight 66 to get to 10-under 132 halfway through the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston. An impressive score, for sure, but Kuchar sits behind Sergio Garcia (64 – 129), Roberto Castro (65 – 130) and Henrik Stenson (63 – 130), so that gives you an idea as to what one needs to do if he hopes to contend for this second playoff title.
Much like Friday, when the field average at TPC Boston was 69.110, the generous scoring opportunities continued to the tune of 69.487. But whereas 22 players shot 66 or better in Round 1, only 15 did so in Saturday’s second round, a statistic that supported Garcia’s point of view.
“Even though there were a lot of low scores, I didn’t feel that this course was that easy,” Garcia said.
It’s the sixth time Garcia has had the 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour, and only once has he gone on to win. Three times he has led after a FEC playoff round – through 18 at the 2009 Barclays, through 36 and 54 of the 2012 Barclays – but he’s still looking for his first win in the playoffs.
Along with a bucket of birdies, here are 5 Things to know from Saturday’s second round of the DBC:
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1. THE IRONMAN: For those of you keeping score at home, this is tournament No. 5 in a row for Garcia. Physically, fine, but mentally? Well, “I just feel like I need a little bit of a reboot on the head and kind of relax a little bit,” said the precocious Spaniard.
Drilling your second shot from 211 yards to 18 feet and slam-dunking a closing eagle putt to shoot 7-under 64? That’s one way to reboot your emotions, and for good measure Garcia roared to 13-under 129 and into the clubhouse lead.
Of course, given Garcia’s nature, the number of note isn’t 5, but 15. As in, this week marks his 15th tournament of the year and thus has he reached the minimum required by PGA Tour rules. Originally, Garcia had hoped to skip this tournament and make the BMW Championship in two weeks his 15th, but there was a bit of a fear factor. Sitting 55th in the FedEx Cup standings, Garcia knew only the top 70 would advance and “16 guys could easily pass me if they played well.”
Likely, Garcia will be exempt into the BMW, but will he go? And if he were to be ranked in the top five entering the Tour Championship, would he play there, what with a chance to win the FEC title? Questions that would be no-brainers for anyone other than Garcia, for he appears determined to get his minimum 15 and fade into the later-year tournaments in Asia and the Middle East.
Not that Garcia isn’t consistent, mind you. Though he’s twice finished second and once fourth at the Tour Championship, getting into that elite field has never ignited much passion within Garcia; he’s played in just seven of them in his 13 year on Tour.
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2. THAT'S MORE LIKE IT: When we last watched Justin Rose early Friday afternoon he was closing out a nondescript round in forgettable fashion. He drove into a fairway bunker, laid up, hit his third to 15 feet, then three-putted for one of eight bogeys at what proved to be the easiest hole in Round 1 (4.530 field average).
At 1-under 70, Rose was joint 56th, hardly the sort of position he envisioned coming into this playoff tournament. But at 33 and in his 11th year on the PGA Tour, Rose knows you needn’t look for the panic button.
“Stay patient,” he said. “Everyone is going to have cool stretches.”
In other words, he didn’t concern himself with the 63s fired by Phil Mickelson and Brian Davis on Friday, nor with the fact that Castro and Garcia each pushed to 13 under in various points early in Round 2.
“I wasn’t ever thinking about what I needed to shoot or trying to give chase,” Rose said. Again, “stay patient,” he said.
And his reward for such patience? How about a bogey-free round with four birdies on each side, a neat and tidy 8-under 63 that roared him up the leaderboard? From dangling on the cut to start the day, Rose left the premises just four off the lead and assured of a late tee time in Sunday’s third round.
“I didn’t hang in there very well (Friday),” Rose said. “I turned a 66 into a 70. But today, I took advantage.”
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3. THE DREADED 14TH: If you blinked, you missed a birdie. Everyone was making them. Garcia had five in his first seven holes. Castro in his first nine holes made an eagle and five birdies.
You would have thought they were on their way to a couple of 58s.
And then, the 14th.
“I feel bad for whoever set it up,” said one player, shaking his head at the dogleg left, par-4 of 512 yards. “It was all the way back.”
Garcia stood on the tee tied for the lead at 13 under, but proceeded to chop it up. From the right side of the fairway, he missed the green with a 207-yard approach, had a miserable stance, and barely moved his third shot. The fourth one got to the putting surface, but two putts dropped him two strokes behind Castro.
Only not for long, because two groups later, Castro walked to that tee box with a bit of steam coming out of his ears. A bogey at the 13th had dropped him to 12 under and he proceeded to hit his tee ball wide right at 14. He, too, missed the green left, and hardly moved his third shot forward. The double-bogey finish dropped him out of the lead and even though he finished with birdies at 16 and 18, the 14th had cost him.
He concluded 36 holes at 12 under, one behind Garcia, who also got stung by the 14th. But Castro at least didn’t have a problem with the set-up.
“It’s a hard hole, (but) that was a dumb decision (on his second shot). I drew a terrible lie. I felt I could get it up there and it cost me. That’s how it goes.”
Having been set up at 478 yards Friday, the 14th ranked toughest, with field average of 4.210. Pushed back 34 yards, it still ranked toughest in Round 2, with a field average of 4.330 and seven other players joined Garcia and Castro in the double-bogey parade there.
All of which seems to indicate that Castro has it correct. It is a tough hole – long at 512 or short at 478.
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4. TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME: Hey, Matt Kuchar, you just shot a second-straight 66 and sit one off the clubhouse lead, what are you going to do?
“I’m going into the cage to take batting practice at Fenway Park.”
Actually, Kuchar didn’t say that, but he was serious about attending pre-game action at Fenway Park before the Red Sox-White Sox game. Kuchar and his wife, Sybi, were taking sons Cameron, 5, and Carson, 4, and with good friends in high places within the Boston organization, they were going to be on the field for batting practice.
But, no, taking a few rips was out of the question.
Kuchar indicated his golf clubs and light-weight shafts were more than enough. “I’m not going to try and swing something 34 ounces,” he said.
Makes sense, given the way he’s swinging the club these days, though Kuchar would be the first to tell you he’s got to finish the job.
In the thick of things through 36 holes at the PGA Championship, sitting just two behind Jason Dufner, Kuchar shot 76-71 on the weekend and finished T-22. Then last week, Kuchar was tied for the 54-hole lead with Gary Woodland at The Barclays when he imploded with a 78 and wound up T-19.
But like many of his competitors, Kuchar is a resilient sort and so here he is again, fourth in the FEC standings and very much in contention to be first in the Deutsche Bank Championship.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: When the cut fell at 1-under 141, 76 of the 100 players made the cut. The list of those at 1 under who sweated things out was an impressive one, for it included Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Webb Simpson, and Martin Kaymer . . . . . McIlroy was 3 under when he hit a 4-iron from 220 yards a little chunky and into the hazard that fronts the 18th green. It was the only double-bogey of the day at the easiest hole on the course. “Just didn’t have enough height, enough flight,” McIlroy said . . . . . Stuart Appleby, No. 96 in your FEC standings, is a longshot to make it into the BMW, but he’s hanging tough. He slipped home an 8-foot putt to birdie the 18th and make the cut on the number . . . . . Among the cut victims was Rickie Fowler (71-73). It’s the first cut he’s missed in 12 FEC playoffs . . . . . Bill Haas also missed the cut, but sitting eighth in the standings he’s a lock to get into the next two playoff events . . . . . Kyle Stanley came into the week 66th in the FEC standings, just inside the top 70 who move on to the BMW. But with rounds of 71-74 he missed the cut and he would need some help if he hopes to move on to another playoff event . . . . . Through 36 holes there have been 19 eagles made, two of them at the par-4 fourth – by Kevin Chappell and Nick Watney.