What looked at first to be a bit of a Brooks Koepka rout turned into an eclectic leaderboard on Friday morning at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Koepka is still involved, but now he’s chasing instead of leading from out in front.
Koepka is not alone among the chasers. He’s joined by Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Webb Simpson and Justin Thomas. They’re all trying to run down Brendon Todd, who is the only player double-figures under par so far this week at 11 under. Let’s take a look at his round and what the rest of the board looks like going into Round 3 on Saturday.
1. Brendon Todd (-11) — I get concerned about golfers who are not elite ball-strikers existing at the top of leaderboards based on putting alone. Todd is hitting the ball well, but the lion’s share of his strokes through 36 holes have been gained on the greens at this event. This is not sustainable in a mediocre field, much less so in this field where the best players on the planet are all lurking.
2. Rickie Fowler (-9) — A really clean two days from Fowler, who has just two bogeys over the first 36 holes and is second in the field in proximity to the hole. I keep going back to something he said on Thursday about not thinking about the swing anymore but rather thinking about trying to hit shots. He’s been working through some swing tweaks, and it seems to have take until now for them to really hit.
“[I] really focused a little bit more on stuff that I could think of or keep things simple as far as thoughts go,” Fowler said this week. “What I can do on the golf course thoughts-wise versus working on the swing on the range and how to separate that. … Just trying to not worry too much about the swing and kind of go back to thinking about some fundamentals and how the body is moving and weight being on the right side, and when the weight’s back into the left, just allowed myself to go play and make golf shots.”
You can’t exist for very long on the PGA Tour worrying about all those different nuances, and Fowler’s stats and score reflect that he’s less worried about those and more about what the card actually says.
T3. Ben, An, Chez Reavie Brooks Koepka (-7) and 6. Sung Kang (-6) — Koepka three-putted from 3 feet on his 11th hole of the day and finished last in the field in putting on Friday. Not good. The better news is that this is the best he’s struck it all year. He’s first from tee to green and first in approach shots. The swing looked tremendous again on Friday despite the 1-over 71. If this is possible, I’m actually more encouraged after Friday’s 71 than I was after Thursday’s 62 because I’ve now seen a multiple-event trend of him striking the ball really, really well. He should stick around all weekend.
T7. Sungjae Im, Louis Oosthuizen, Webb Simpson, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Jason Day (-5) — The encouraging thing about Day is that he’s been doing it more from tee to green than with his putter (which is often how he used to do it). Day, despite a back that…