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Spieth maintains one stroke lead at Travelers at the midway point

Jordan Spieth followed up Thursday’s career-best opening round score on the PGA Tour with another solid round of golf Friday here in Cromwell at the Travelers Championship to remain in first place, one stroke ahead of Troy Merritt and Patrick Reed.

Wesley Bryan and Daniel Summerhays are two strokes back with a two-round total of 134. Farmington native Zach Zaback played better than he did in his PGA debut at TPC River Highlanders with an even-par 70 but he still missed the cut by six strokes.

This is the ninth time that Spieth has held a share of the lead at the midway point of a tournament. He has won four of those tournaments with the most recent win coming at the 2017 AT&T People Beach Pro-Am. He also won the 2015 Masters and 2015 U.S. Open.

“You’ve got to stay patient. You can’t force it here. You get so many opportunities, you feel like you’re losing to the field if you don’t birdie with a wedge in your hand,” said Spieth, who had four birdies, one bogey and one and one double-bogey on the par-5 13th hole. “But they put these pins in such difficult locates it’s hard to feed it next to it, once you do, it’s difficult to get the right line on the green.

“Recognizing that the course is 6,800 yards for a reason. It’s tricked out elsewhere. And being very patient on the weekend is key,” Spieth said. “I always mention that, that’s always the word. I try to tell myself that, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Given here especially, given that we’re going to have a lot of chances, greens in regulations is going to be an important stat.”

In 2015, Bubba Watson held the lead at the midway point and went onto win. Only two players have won the tournament from start to finish – Gene Littler in 1959 and Tim Morris in 1982.

Entering this week on the heels of four straight missed cuts, Troy Merritt posted rounds of 65 and 68 to sit one stroke behind Spieth heading into the weekend. Merritt’s 65 in round one tied his low round on the PGA Tour this season.

In five previous appearances at the Travelers Championship, Merritt missed the cut four times.

“I’ve always felt comfortable on this golf course,” Merritt said. “I always felt like I could make a lot of birdies. I just made a lot of bogies as well. So I think so far it’s just the confidence in the driver. I’ve hit a lot more fairways the first two days than I have in years past. I’ve had a lot more birdie putts, a lot more greens. I haven’t been able to make a mistake on the greens so far, and hopefully we can continue that.”

Five-time tour winner Patrick Reed followed up an opening-round 67 with a 66 in round two, marked by five birdies, including a 24-foot birdie putt on No.1 and a 13½ foot birdie putt on his last hole, No. 18. Like Merritt, Reed’s lone bogey of the second round came at the par-3 16th.

“I feel good,” Reed said. “I feel like (my) game where it needs to be. Really, the biggest thing is take it day by day and shot by shot. Go out and have some fun tomorrow and give yourself an opportunity to win a golf tournament on Sunday.”

Zaback, the former UConn and Farmington High golfer, shot a 76 in the first round. He got better on Friday, shooting a 70 but was still six shots back of making the cut. Zaback had six birdies Friday along with four bogeys and a double bogey.

Despite hitting only five of 14 fairways, Patrick Rodgers—who made his professional debut here—hit 14 of 18 greens in his second round en route to a 5-under 65, tying his low round on the PGA Tour this season. Rodgers, who finished tied for third a year ago here, is in search of his first PGA Tour win.

Jim Furyk, who posted a final-round, 12-under 58 in last year’s final round of the Travelers Championship, opened with a 3-under 67, followed by a 2-under 68 in round two. Furyk is making his sixth start in the Travelers Championship.

2016 FedExCup winner and No. 3 Rory McIlroy posted scores of 67-73 in his first appearance at the Travelers Championship to make the cut. McIlroy had five bogeys in his second round (No. 5, 11, 12, 16, 18).

“I feel like this golf course sets up well for me,” McIlroy said. “I think it was just the conditions. You know, it was windy, it was tricky. Sometimes the wind got up and then it laid down. It was hard to really commit to club selection or the shot you were going to play. So I was sort of caught in two minds a little bit out there at some points. Hit some loose shots because of it.”

Two-time Travelers Championship winner (2010, 2015) Bubba Watson followed his first-round 5-over 75—his highest score in the event in 39 rounds—with a 3-under 67 to miss the cut. This is his second missed cut in 11 appearances at the Travelers Championship. Watson missed the cut at the U.S. Open last week after rounds of 75-73. This week’s missed cut marks his sixth missed cut in 14 starts this season.

After posting a 2-over 72 in round one, No. 1 Jason Day shot an even-par 70 in the second round to miss the cut by two strokes. Day signed for a par on the par-four No. 4, when he actually recorded a birdie-three. In three starts at this event, this is Day’s first missed cut.

NOTES: Due to expected rain, the tournament will be starting around 10:45 a.m. on Saturday, going off of both tees in threesomes. Play is expected to finish around 6 p.m. Gates and Will Call will open at 9 a.m. 

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years.

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