5 Things: Spieth leads; Woods survives; more
Friday, January 24, 2014
SAN DIEGO – On a day when a 20-year-old kid took a 38-year-old Hall of Fame talent to school, the Farmers Insurance Open came into focus. Given that all 153 golfers who played both days have each had 18 holes on the South and North courses, a case of normalcy has settled in.
That young Jordan Spieth put on an absolute ball-striking clinic (11 fairways, 13 greens, 9 birdies and zero bogeys) to post a 9-under 63 and roar halfway home in 10-under 134 was impressive. That he did so while playing the North Course alongside Tiger Woods (5 fairways, 12 greens, 2 birdies, and 1 ugly bogey, on a par-5, no less) was downright breathtaking.
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Whereas Woods was thrilled with the previous day’s 72 on the very tough South Course, he could not have been pleased at all with a 1-under 71 on a North Course that plays about three strokes easier. Yet Woods maintained composure and delivered the cliches about it being a “four-day” tournament, knowing he now trails Spieth by nine.
Indeed, it is, but if he doesn’t win this tournament for the eighth time, it will be because he made it a two-day tournament.
Spieth’s dramatics clearly served as the storyline of the day, which brings us to 5 Things to Know about Round 2:
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1. POLISHED BEYOND HIS YEARS: If you think that whipping the world’s greatest player was the impressive part of Spieth’s day, you might need to reconsider. What continues to amaze is that the kid from Dallas is so humble, so quiet, so unimpressed with what he’s doing.
Just another day at the office, it seems, and it mattered not a bit that he was there with Woods.
“I wasn’t intimidated by any means," he said. "I grew up watching him, obviously, just like I did with a lot of these veterans out here. I’ve idolized him, watched him win majors and it’s exciting to finally be aired with him.”
A few shrugs of the shoulders accompanied those words, but Spieth made it clear: “It’s very easy to play with him.”
For the third time already this season, Spieth has at least a share of the lead after a complete round. He was there after 18 holes of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and also through 54 holes. While he didn’t win at Kapalua, he’s starting to look very natural in the position.
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2. OH, AND A WORD FROM TIGER WOODS: Maybe, just maybe, if it was the fourth round and he had been dusted like that, Woods would have offered massive praise toward Spieth. But on this day, the icon was wearing a look of frustration, not looking to offer great dialogue.
“Balls were landing in the fairway, running a foot in the rough, and then I couldn’t be aggressive,” said Woods. “I couldn’t get after some of these flags and consequently my score reflected that.”
When asked about Spieth’s 63 and the the impressive manner in which he was produced, Woods relented. “The kid’s got talent,” he said, which doesn’t exactly serve as news. “He hits it a long way, phenomenal putter.”
If you wanted more, you were out of luck. Woods was still agonizing over a round of 71 that must have felt like 81. But if you think the nine-stroke deficit is too much to overcome, Woods offered a rebuttal.
“I’ve done it before. In ’99 (he made the cut by just two) and shot 62-65 (on the weekend). It’s a four-round tournament. It’s a totally different deal if this is the last day, but it’s four days,” he said.
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3. BACK WITH AUTHORITY: For a guy who hasn’t played a competitive tournament since last March, J.B. Holmes hardly looks like he’s enveloped in rust. Backing up an opening 71 with a 4-under 68 on the North Course, Holmes at the halfway point is at 5-under 139 and quite thrilled with the ways things have unfolded.
“Just glad to be out here,” said the 31-year-old Holmes, whose litany of issues started in the fall of 2011 when he opted for low-risk brain surgery to relieve “vertigo-like” symptoms and didn’t play after the PGA Championship that season. While he returned to tee it up 25 times in 2012, in March of 2013 he fractured an ankle roller-blading.
“I hate running, so I wanted to do something different,” he said.
Holmes had played in just five tournaments, four of which resulted in missed cuts. But as he was given orders to rest the ankle, he decided it was a good time to address another sore spot. He had surgery to fix what he called tennis elbow.
He said he didn’t hit a ball for four months, but spent much of the winter working at his game and preparing for his return. Holmes usually started his seasons at Torrey Pines, so he feels like things are quite normal. As for his renowned power, Holmes said it’s still there.
“I can still get it out there enough,” he said with a smile.
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4. STEWART CINK SLIPS: There's no shame in shooting 71 on Torrey Pines' famed South Course, but it wasn't enough for first-round leader Stewart Cink to keep pace with Spieth's torrid ball striking.
Bogey free through 31 holes, Cink was tied at 10 under with Spieth before he erred twice in his next four holes. A decent tee shot to the right-side rough on the long par-5 ninth, Cink's last hole of the day, allowed him to reach the par-5 in two and take aim at the top of the leaderboard again; but a birdie kept him within a shot of Spieth.
"I'm playing really well; I'm really excited about golf right now and the way I'm playing," said Cink, chasing his seventh Tour victory and first since the 2009 Open Championship.
He also figures to keep a close eye on the leader from his "Moving Day" vantage point.
"I'm looking forward to playing with Jordan. I've never seen him hit a ball, so that will be fun," Cink said. "It's always exciting to see the young guys play."
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Phil Mickelson said after his round he'll try to tee it up Saturday after having made the cut despite being visibly limited by back pain; he's T-32 at 2 under. . . . Nicolas Colsaerts' 67 on the South got him to 8 under and third through 36 holes. . . . Billy Horschel birdied four holes on his back nine Friday (the North's front) to move to T-4 alongside Marc Leishman at 7 under. . . . Rocco Mediate (74), Mike Weir (77), and Freddie Jacobson (81) all withdrew after rough first rounds.
– Associated Press contributed