The sun finally came out, and Jimmy Walker saw a glimpse of what he hopes are brighter days ahead at the Bridgestone Invitational.
In a year marked by coping with Lyme disease and bouts of fatigue, Walker endured rain delays of nearly five hours Friday and posted a five-under-par 65 for a two-shot lead going into the weekend at Akron, Ohio.
The timing couldn’t be better for Walker, who goes to Quail Hollow next week to defend his title in the PGA Championship.
“It hadn’t been a lot of fun this year,” Walker said. “But it’s nice to see some putts go in and make some solid swings and keep rounds going, make par putts, just the stuff I haven’t been doing.”
He was at seven-under 133, two shots ahead of Thomas Pieters of Belgium, who had a 70.
Walker didn’t have a lot going last year until he finished well in the Canadian Open, and then went wire-to-wire at Baltusrol the next week to win the PGA Championship. So maybe there’s another spark he can find at Firestone Country Club.
“There’s still a lot of golf on a hard course, but I know it’s there,” he said.
He also has a slew of players not far behind him in this World Golf Championship. Rory McIlroy put together a steady round of 69 and was three shots back, along with Zach Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama, who each shot 67.
The large group at three-under 137 included Jordan Spieth, going after his third straight victory. Spieth missed a short par putt on the 15th and was slipping behind when he faced an awkward lie from the edge of a bunker. Stumbling out of the sand backward, he nearly holed the shot and made birdie, and then he stuffed his approach to within three feet for birdie on the 18th hole to salvage a 70.
Jason Day, winless in nearly 15 months, also got back into the picture despite some mild back pain. He opened with three straight birdies and shot 30 on the front nine to get back near the leaders, though two bogeys on the back nine slowed him and he shot 66. He was in the group at 137.
I.K. Kim leads Women’s British Open
I.K. Kim, the best player in women’s golf right now, emerged from the cold and wet with a 4-under 68 to build a two-shot lead in the Women’s British Open going into the weekend.
A two-time winner on the LPGA Tour over the last two months, Kim dropped only one shot in some of the worst conditions at Kingsbarns Links and reached the halfway point at 11-under 133. She was two shots clear of Lexi Thompson and Georgia Hall of England.
Kim displayed a remarkable fortitude in weather that veered erratically toward the end of the day between bright sunshine and torrential downpours. The 29-year-old from South Korea atoned for her lone bogey with three birdies and an eagle on the 538-yard 11th hole.
Perhaps the most significant move came from Thompson, the No. 2 player in the world. Two-over par and birdie-free after nine-holes, the big-hitting Floridian played the homeward nine in 30 with six birdies — five in succession. In addition, she found time to add a new phrase to golf’s already voluminous terminology.
First-round leader Michelle Wie did not fare so well. The 27-year old American made only one birdie in a 76 that leaves her seven shots off the pace and in a tie for 21st. Wie has not won since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
Perry’s 65 good for a share of the lead
Two-time tournament winner Kenny Perry shot a seven-under 65 to hold a share of the lead after the first round of the PGA Tour Champions event just outside of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Perry, who won in Minnesota in 2014 and 2015, opened his round with six consecutive birdies. He finished with another one to join Mike Goodes atop the leaderboard at TPC Twin Cities.
Scott Verplank, Marco Dawson, Gene Sauers and Jay Haas finished at six-under. Steve Flesch and Colin Montgomerie were among the golfers to card 67s. Brandt Jobe leads a host of golfers who shot opening-round 68s, three shots off the lead.