2018 British Open: Here comes Jordan Spieth at Carnoustie

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2018 British Open: Here comes Jordan Spieth at Carnoustie

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2018 British Open: Here comes Jordan Spieth at Carnoustie

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jordan Spieth had quite the gallery following him during Friday’s second round of the British Open at Carnoustie.

There was Paul Lawrie, who won the 1999 Open on this very course. And Jean Van de Velde, the man he beat in the playoff that day. Both were working for television stations, as were Rich Beem, the 2002 PGA Championship winner, and Jim “Bones” Mackay, who caddied for Phil Mickelson for all five of Mickelson’s major victories.

Sure, in Spieth’s grouping were Englishman Justin Rose, the world’s third-ranked golfer and a fan favorite, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, a strong candidate for Golf’s Most Interesting Man. But undoubtedly, most were there to watch Spieth.

The reigning Champion Golfer of the Year – despite the putting struggles, despite no top-20s since the Masters, and despite a 4-over finish on his final four holes Thursday to shoot 1-over 72 – was the main attraction Friday afternoon at Carnoustie. And he gave the onlookers something to appreciate, shooting 4-under 67 with five birdies to vault to T-11 on the big yellow leaderboard.

“Very happy to be back in the tournament,” Spieth said.

Spieth struggled off the tee in Round 2, hitting seven of 15 fairways – thought it seemed like fewer. He more than made up for it in other areas. There was the chip-in for his first birdie of the day at the par-4 third. And on the greens, Spieth needed just 25 putts to get around Friday, a credit to a tweak to his putting setup that Spieth worked on Thursday afternoon and Friday pre-round.

“Allowed my arms to do more of the work, which is what I’m looking to do,” said Spieth, who entered the week 175th on Tour in strokes gained putting.

“Maybe 60, 70 percent of the putts I’m hitting are set up exactly like I want them to, and there’s still a few where it looks kind of weird to me, and I feel like I have to manipulate it. But, no, it’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt.”

Then there were the several impressive recovery approach shots out of the fescue. After a couple of putts that barely missed to close the front nine, Spieth pulled a drive at the par-4 11th left, off a fan’s leg and up near a tree. With a decent lie and great angle at the hole, Spieth landed an 8-iron about 7 feet away and sank the putt. At the next hole, the par-4 12th, he missed a drive right, and then did the same – hacking one on the green and rolling in the birdie, this time from about 15 feet.

“I stole 10 and 11,” Spieth said. “I could have ended up a couple over there and ended up a couple under.”

The momentum had greatly shifted. Even a bogey at the par-3 16th won’t quiet the buzz surrounding Spieth as he enters the weekend. He admittedly isn’t striking the ball as well as he did last year at Royal Birkdale, but at 3 under, Spieth could come away with the same result on Sunday.

He is just three shots off the lead shared by Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, who both happen to be staying with Spieth this week.

“It was an opportunity today,” said Rose, who birdied the last to make the cut on the number at 3 over. “The course was as easy as you could hope for. … This afternoon was an opportunity to score well.”

Spieth seized that opportunity on Friday, and now he’ll look to keep his stranglehold on the title of Champion Golfer of the Year this weekend at Carnoustie.

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