Two swings cost Dustin Johnson the lead. It wasn’t long before Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler caught up to him in the Northern Trust, setting up a weekend of star power in the opening FedEx Cup playoff event.
Johnson, finally looking like the No. 1 player who looked unstoppable in the spring, appeared on the verge of building a big lead at Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury, N.Y., until consecutive tee shots wound up on the wrong holes and forced him to scramble just to escape with bogey.
Fowler made up a five-shot deficit in six holes playing alongside Johnson, making a 15-foot birdie on the last hole for a 66 to join Johnson and Jhonattan Vegas (65) atop the leaderboard. And then Spieth put together a stretch Friday afternoon reminiscent of his British Open victory, minus a shot from the driving range, in a 65.
Spieth began the back nine with five straight birdies, matching his longest birdie streak on the PGA Tour. It ended with a bogey on the par-three 15th when his tee shot rolled back into the water, but then he answered with a 40-foot birdie putt up the slope on the 16th.
Even without his best year with his best club, Spieth has won three times and captured the third leg of the Grand Slam. But his putter doesn’t leave him for long.
“Putter has been streaky for me this summer, which is better than just kind of not-so-great, which it was before that,” he said. “So I’ve been able to mentally use one or two good putts to make me feel like I’m putting awesome.
“I got on the good side of the streak on the back nine today.”
Kuchar and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson (68) were one shot out of the lead.
Watson is at No. 113 in the FedEx Cup, and only the top 100 after The Northern Trust advance to the next playoff event at the TPC Boston. Watson says he won’t play the rest of the year once he is eliminating. A big finish this week could delay that another month, a nice problem to have.
Jon Rahm, who played with Johnson and Fowler, had a 68 and was two shots behind along with Justin Rose (68) and Russell Henley (72).
Seventy players made the cut at two over. That included Geoff Ogilvy, who went bunker-to-bunker-to-bunker on his final hole and had to make a four-foot putt for double bogey. If he had missed, then it would have let 11 players back into the tournament.
Among those missing the cut were Hideki Matsuyama, the No. 1 seed going into the playoffs, who three-putted the last hole and missed by one. The cut ended the season of 13 players, a group that included Presidents Cup captain Steve Stricker and former PGA champion Jimmy Walker.
Chun leads LPGA event in Canada
In Gee Chun took the lead Friday in the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, and Canadian star Brooke Henderson did just enough to make the weekend at Ottawa Hunt.
Chun closed with a birdie on the par-five ninth for her second consecutive four-under 67, giving the South Korean player a two-stroke lead over Americans Mo Martin, Brittany Lincicome and Marina Alex.
Henderson, the 19-year-old fan favorite from nearby Smiths Falls, followed her opening 74 with a 69 to make the cut on the number at one over. Also closing on the front nine, she rebounded from a bogey on the par-three eighth with a two-putt birdie on No. 9.
Martin birdied four of the last four holes for a 67, and Lincicome birdied the par-5 18th for her second straight 68. Alex, the first-round leader, had a 70.
Defending champion misses cut in Denmark
Defending champion Thomas Pieters missed the cut at the Made In Denmark tournament, as Steve Webster took a one-shot lead after two rounds of the European Tour event on Friday. Pieters, the world No. 29, was the highest-ranked player in the field, but shot 74-70 and was two over the expected par cut line.
Webster, who led overnight with Wade Ormsby and Matt Wallace, shot a one-under 70 and was on eight-under overall at the Himmerland Golf & Spa Resort. Paul Dunne (68), SSP Chawrasia (68), Marc Warren (64), and David Horsey (67) were a shot off the lead.
Warren, the 2014 champion, had missed the cut in his previous eight events. Making his 500th European Tour appearance, Europe Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn shot 68 to make the weekend at one under.