Behind revitalized putter, Lovemark co-leads Northern Trust with Koepka

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Behind revitalized putter, Lovemark co-leads Northern Trust with Koepka

PGA Tour

Behind revitalized putter, Lovemark co-leads Northern Trust with Koepka

PARAMUS, N.J. – Last year after shooting 78-72 and missing the cut at The Northern Trust, Jamie Lovemark stuck around Glen Oaks Country Club and continued to use the facilities to practice. As Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and the leaders started their final rounds on Sunday, Lovemark was on the putting green, working on his putting

Standing 6 feet 5 inches tall and built like a defensive back that might roam the secondary in the NFL, putting has been his weakness. Lovemark was 112th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting heading into this week, but you’d never know that by the way he is putting at Ridgewood Country Club. Lovemark is draining everything in sight, including a birdie putts from 65 feet on the ninth hole and 45 feet on the fourth hole.

Thanks to that hot putter, Lovemark shot 66 and is 10 under after 36 holes, tying him at the top of the leaderboard at The Northern Trust with Brooks Koepka, who shot 65.

“I consider myself a good putter, but it has been a so-so year on the greens for me,” Lovemark said. “I feel like it’s just a matter of time before I start making some putts and maybe that’s this week.”

Koepka, who won this year’s U.S. Open and PGA Championship, would move to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking if he wins again this week.

Among the players chasing Lovemark and Koepka are major champions Adam Scott and Dustin Johnson.

Scott, who shot 64 Friday to move into third at 9 under, also putted brilliantly. He ranks sixth in strokes gained: putting this week and yes, as he did at the PGA Championship and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Scott has two putters in the bag, his broomstick and a short putter.

“I’ve been working with the short putter for a couple of months now, and it’s really good,” he said. “I put it in to try and hole a few more putts, you know, at 15 to 20 feet which is where I’ve really been poor. And ever since it’s gone in, the stroke has just really gotten so much better with the long one that I haven’t really thought about pulling it out.”

Johnson shot 67 for the second day in a row, putting him in a tie for fourth, and for the second day in a row his score included a triple bogey. Thursday it was an eight on the par-5 17th, while on Friday it was a seven on the par-4 first hole.

Bryson DeChambeau, who is trying to impress Jim Furyk and earn a captain’s pick onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team, shot 66. He is tied for fourth with Johnson at 8 under.

Sean O’Hair is not playing for a spot on the Ryder Cup team, but he is trying to extend his season. Arriving at Ridgewood ranked No. 121 on the FedEx Cup point list, he needs to get inside the top 100 to make the field at TPC Boston. His second-round 69 left him at 7 under and tied for sixth with Kevin Tway, Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Palmer and Jhonattan Vegas.

“You know, I don’t really feel like there’s much pressure on me at this point,” said O’Hair. “I really don’t have anything to lose. If I don’t play well this week, what happens? I go home and play with my kids and it’s all good. I’ve got a job next year. I’m not worried about it.”

Phil Mickelson and Tony Finau, playing together in an early-morning group, took advantage of great scoring conditions. Mickelson started by making four straight birdies, but back-to-back bogeys on his final two holes gave him another 68. He is in a six-way tie for 11th with players that include Justin Thomas, Patrick Cantlay and Finau.

“I know I’m playing well and it’s going to get better each day,” Mickelson said. “Even though I didn’t finish the round the way I wanted to, it was a good day to put me in contention heading into the weekend.”

Like DeChambeau and Mickelson, Finau is trying to earn a captain’s pick to get onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team, but unlike the left-hander he played with in the first two rounds, Finau has not played on the last 11 squads.

“You know, to say that I’m not thinking about the Ryder Cup, is definitely not true,” Finau said. “But it’s not the most important thing right now. I want to play good golf and get myself in contention this week. You know, if it continues to prove to the captain and to the guys that make the choice, make the picks, that I’m worthy of a spot, then that’s the case.”

Eleven golfers saw their 2017-18 PGA Tour seasons end Friday because they started the Northern Trust ranked No. 101 or higher on the FedEx Cup point list and missed the cut. They are: Richy Werenski, John Huh, Tyler Duncan, William McGirt, J.T. Poston, Vaughn Taylor, Grayson Murray, Ryan Blaum, Scott Brown, Nick Taylor and Harris English.

The table below lists The Bubble, players who started this week ranked No. 90 through No. 110 on the FedEx Cup point list. It also shows those players’ results through 36 holes at the Northern Trust and their projected positions. At the end of play on Sunday, the top 100 players on the FedEx Cup points list advance to the next round of the playoffs, the Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston.

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