Henrik Stenson Owns East Lake, but Jordan Spieth Isn't Far Behind
ATLANTA, Ga.—Observations from just another day at the golf course, although in this case it’s East Lake, former home of Bobby Jones, and definitely not just another golf course:
Let’s get small. The hazard of any small-field tournament (there are 28 players left standing after the withdrawals of Jim Furyk and Louis Oosthuizen) is that one hot player can run away and hide.
It’s not over 'til it’s over but Sweden’s Henrik Stenson tried to pull away. He’s got a history here. He won the 2013 Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup along with it. Thursday, he made a run at 59 before settling for 63.
Friday, Stenson posted 68 and led by three over Jordan Spieth and four over Paul Casey. Based on his history, Stenson looks like the man to beat, if you can catch him. Stenson is nine-under par through 36 holes. Only six players are within seven shots of his lead.
Total honesty. “Hopefully, nobody goes nuts this weekend and if somebody does, it’s me.” — Jordan Spieth
Jason Day is human. He made a triple bogey during the first round and today he shot a one-over-par 71. He had only two birdies on his card. That hole he tripled Thursday, the par-4 fifth, he bogeyed Friday. Give him two pars there and he’d be four under and in the top five. There are no “Ifs” in golf.
Jordan Spieth looks familiar. The guy who tore up the four majors is looking more and more like the pesky birdie threat he was all summer. He made no bogeys in the second round, the only player in the field to not have an over-par hole. (Steven Bowditch didn’t have a bogey but he did have a double.) It would’ve been a quiet 66 except that 20-foot putt he poured in at the 18th green, in front of a big crowd, was hardly quiet. It was the shot heard ‘round the course. Even Bobby Jones might’ve heard that one.
Spieth’s peeps. If Friday is any indication, Spieth is the biggest draw in golf—OK, not counting Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson. When Spieth made the turn at the par-5 ninth, a mass of fans swarmed along the fairway, past the green and kept on going toward the tenth tee. When Tiger or Phil aren’t around, Spieth is the face of golf. All he needs is a catchy nickname for his group, like Arnie’s Army, Lee’s Fleas, Lema’s Legion or Funk’s Punks. Spieth’s Specks? Jord’s Horde? Nah.
Mud cats. Speaking of crowds, what were all these fans doing at East Lake? More than 1.6 inches of rain fell overnight, and it drizzled or misted off and on all day. The bermuda grass was wet, parts of the course were muddy, some where quagmire-like and honestly, it’s not much fun squishing around the course. But the Tour Championship has done a sweet job with corporate suites, allowing fans to duck for cover, especially on the back nine, and this tournament has finally found a following with the public, it seems. Now about the Braves.
Cup check. Next week is dark on the PGA Tour—let’s just call it The Off-Season Weekend. It will be followed by the Presidents Cup in South Korea the next week. Rickie Fowler, who has never played a Pres Cup, was asked how he’s heard it might be different from the Ryder Cup, which he has played in. “It’s winning versus not coming back with a cup,” Fowler joked. “I’m hoping to be part of a winning team. That’d be nice. It’s a long trip but we’re going to have a good time together.”
War zone. Fowler and Danny Lee have cranked up the pranks this week. Fowler autographed Lee’s sign in his spot in the parking lot, drew hearts on it and wrote, “Find Danny a girl.” He also arranged some orange cones and stretched tape between them to cordon off Lee’s reserved spot.
“Did you do this?” @RickieFowler, Lee tweeted.
Lee responded by draping the afore-mentioned tape around Fowler’s car and its wheelwells and stuffing the orange cones beneath his car.
“I’m sure this is just the beginning,” Fowler told PGATour.com.
After the round, Fowler said, “He tried to call it quits but he started it. So I feel like it is my turn. I don’t know. We’ll see.” There is definitely more to come.
And the winner is… East Lake. In the slop and mist, only four players broke par in the second round versus 16 on the opening round.
“The rough was very wet and it made judging shots out of the rough very tough,” Fowler said. “You had to play well to shoot under par today.”