5 Things: Spieth shines before weather halts play
BETHESDA, Md. – After a first round in which just one player shot better than 3 under, players navigated a tough Congressional Country Club layout with a little more success on Friday.
Among those was Jordan Spieth, who fired a bogey-free 5-under 66 to grab a share of the lead heading into the weekend at the AT&T National. Spieth is tied with first-round leader Roberto Castro at 7 under.
But with lightning and heavy rain moving in during the afternoon, play was called for the day, meaning players in the afternoon groups will have to finish early Saturday morning.
Here are 5 Things you need to know from the second round at Congressional:
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1. SPIETH’S NEW GOAL: Upon turning pro following the fall season of his sophomore year at Texas, Jordan Spieth set an immediate goal of earning his PGA Tour card for next season.
Well, he essentially already has done that. Spieth has earned $919,079 on the PGA Tour. The top 125 on the money list earn their cards for the 2013-14 season. Last year, Kevin Chappell was No. 125 after earning $647,510.
Now, he’s focused on winning.
“I can’t be in the (FedEx Cup) playoffs unless I win,” said Spieth, who shot 5-under 66 Friday in the second round of the AT&T National at Congressional to grab a share of the lead with Roberto Castro at 7 under.
“That makes winning the No. 1 goal. . . . I’m not in a position where I need to fight for T-13 and earn X amount of dollars. I’m able to get out here and go for some more pins and try and get the win.”
Spieth was locked in during his second round of the AT&T National, hitting all 18 greens and making five birdies, all of which came on his front nine.
“I couldn’t tell you the last time I hit 18 greens in a round,” said Spieth, who will be 19 years, 11 months and 3 days old on Sunday. Should he win, he would be the fourth-youngest Tour winner since 1900.
He also didn’t record a bogey after making just one on Thursday.
“It kind of went by fast, to be honest,” Spieth said.
Not as fast as it has taken Spieth to succeed as a pro, though.
Spieth entered the year with no status on any pro tour. He missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open in his first start, but then posted two top-10s on the Web.com Tour to put himself in good position to earn a spot on that tour.
“I thought (I was going to earn my card) through the Web.com Tour,” Spieth said. “I thought I may play well enough to earn enough to get into (the Web.com Tour).”
Things worked out differently, though, and much to the delight of Spieth. He decided not to play a Web.com Tour event in Colombia in favor of teeing it up at the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open. He tied for second in Puerto Rico, and hasn’t looked back.
He has played in 11 events on Tour since, making eight cuts and finishing in the top-10 three times. He also has special temporary status, which gives him unlimited sponsor exemptions.
He’ll use that privilege during the next two weeks, at the Greenbrier Classic and the John Deere Classic, and then possibly a couple more times before the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
“If things went perfectly, I’d be sitting where I am right now,” Spieth said.
And that’s in the driver’s seat at the AT&T National.
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2. SECOND ROUND NOT OVER YET: Lightning and then heavy rain caused the second round to be called Friday.
Play was suspended at 2:44 p.m. local time, with the afternoon groups still out on the course. At about 5 p.m., players returned to the range, but were soon brought back inside. Play was stopped for the day at 6:03 p.m.
The second round will resume at 7 a.m. Saturday, with the third round expected to start at 10:50 a.m. Players will compete in threesomes off of split tees for the third round.
Those who didn’t finish their second rounds include Andres Romero, who is 4 under through 13 holes and 5 under overall, and Nick Watney, who is 2 under through eight holes and 3 under overall.
The current cut line is projected at 2 over, with 71 players inside that number. Jason Day (1 over) and Adam Scott (2 over) are among those who are safe for now. They completed second-round play.
Luke Guthrie, Derek Ernst and Sang-Moon Bae are still on the course at 3 over. Amateur Steven Fox (7 over) is through five holes and is trying to avoid an eighth missed cut on Tour this season.
Those who are surely heading home include K.J. Choi (4 over), Hunter Mahan (5 over) and Chris Williams (5 over).
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3. A LEARNING LEE: After winning Q-School last fall, D.H. Lee entered uncharted territory as he began his first season on the PGA Tour.
“To be honest with you, I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Lee, who shot 5-under 66 Friday at Congressional and sits two shots back of leaders Roberto Castro and Jordan Spieth. “But as time went by, I started learning.”
Lee had to make some adjustments to his short game, specifically his putting. He also had to change his attitude – something his caddie, Gary Matthews, has helped him with – after missing four cuts and not finishing better than T-49 in his first 10 Tour events of the season.
In his 10th start, he missed the Saturday cut at the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head Island, S.C., finishing T-83.
“It actually turned out to be a good experience because I gained confidence,” Lee said. “I knew that I was doing the right thing, but it was just unfortunate and I missed the (54-hole) cut. I think that was the turning point, and from that point on I started gaining a lot more confidence.”
The next week, he finished T-8 at the Zurich Classic before following that with a T-16 showing at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Lee stands No. 129 on the money list, so he still has some work to do to retain his card. A high finish at the AT&T would help.
“My goal is to retain my card,” Lee said. “I’ll say that I’m happy, and I want to think positive. I’m fairly confident that I’ll be able to gain my card back again for next year.”
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4. YELLOW JACKET FLAVOR: With Roberto Castro holding a share of the lead, and Cameron Tringale and Stewart Cink in contention, Georgia Tech is well represented atop the leaderboard at the AT&T National.
Ben Kohles and James Driscoll are doing the same for Virginia.
“It’s nice to see the Yellow Jackets, some of the younger guys moving up,” said Cink, who is 3 under, one shot shy of Tringale at 4 under, and four back of Castro and fellow leader Spieth.
“Roberto is having a good growing spell this year and coming into his own, and Cameron’s proven that he’s a pretty solid player, too. I like to see those guys out there playing well. I’d like to play with them over the weekend.”
Cink, the 2009 Open Championship winner, didn’t record a single top-10 in 2012. He’s got two this season. Tringale has one top-10, a third-place showing at Tampa Bay, while Castro is still searching for his first top-10 of the year.
With Matt Kuchar not playing this week, the trio of Georgia Tech alums are keeping the Yellow Jackets relevant at Congressional.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Remember when co-leader Roberto Castro shot 9-under 63 at the Players Championship before falling out of contention? Well, then you might remember David Lingmerth’s performance at TPC Sawgrass. Lingmerth finished T-2 at the Players and, like Castro, now finds himself in the hunt at the AT&T National. Lingmerth carded a 6-under 65 to move to 3 under overall. . . . Russell Henley had his score up to 5 under at the turn Friday, but closed with a pair of bogeys to shoot 1-under 70. Henley is 3 under for the tournament and is chasing his third top-10 of the season. He opened his rookie season on the PGA Tour with a victory at the Sony Open. And he’s kept up that strong play. Henley entered the week at No. 16 in the FedEx Cup standings. . . . James Driscoll needed just 25 putts to get around Congressional on Friday en route to shooting a second straight 2-under 69. Pretty good, right? “When you only hit 10 greens, you’d better only have 25 putts if you want to shoot under par,” said Driscoll, who is staying with former Virginia teammate Eli Barnes this week.