Top-ranked Jon Rahm, the reigning US Open champion, fired a bogey-free four-under-par 67 to grab a one-stroke lead after Friday’s second round of the US PGA Northern Trust tournament.The 26-year-old Spaniard stood on 12-under-par 130 without a bogey through 36 holes at Liberty National in suburban New York at the first FedEx Cup playoff event.
It’s the first time in 110 starts in Rahm’s US PGA career that he has started 36 holes without a bogey.
“It’s nice to be bogey free, but it’s not like it’s goal No 1. Might be actually first time I go 36 holes bogey free,” Rahm said.
“The goal is to win a tournament and put yourself in the best position. If I had to choose, I would rather be leading than bogey free.”
American Tony Finau was second on 131 after a 64 Friday with fifth-ranked Justin Thomas, Olympic champion Xander Schauffele and fellow American Keith Mitchell sharing third on 132.
Schauffele and three-time Major winner Jordan Spieth each had six birdies, two eagles and a bogey to shoot 62s. Spieth, who shared 10th with Brooks Koepka on 134, holed an 81-yard shot from the fairway at the par-four 5th.
“Just chipped the ball unbelievably well,” Spieth said. “It led to at least some short par putts and then took advantage when they were for birdie.”
Rahm, who captured his first Major title in June at Torrey Pines, said he was most pleased about keeping his composure, notably in the wake of poor wedge shots on approaches at the third and 16th holes.
“I’m leaving myself a really tough up and down and I was able to make good putts for par,” Rahm said. “Just accepting that I can miss shots. You get a little too greedy, miss the green, and you can have a tough up and down, and I’ve been able to save those so far.
“Coming into the weekend, I’m definitely going to have to clean a couple of those mistakes up.”
Rahm began off the 10th tee and dropped his approach to seven feet at the par-five 13th before sinking a birdie putt, then added a clutch 24-foot putt to save par at the par-four 16th.
After making a 10-foot par putt at the third, Rahm birdied three of the next four holes, his longest putt from just outside five feet at the par-three 4th.
The event is the first of three FedEx Cup playoff tournaments to crown a season points champion, with fields reduced to 70 next week and 30 for the Tour Championship at Atlanta in two weeks.
“It’s important,” Rahm said of the Cup. “It’s a trophy that a very select group of people are going to be able to put their name in. It’s one of those like in Majors and great events like The Players to where we’re called upon and you have to show up and play good.”
Rahm said he doesn’t like a system where you could win two playoff events but have a poor final week and finish well back.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” Rahm said. “Win the first two and if you don’t play good on the last one, you can end up with a really bad finish. I don’t like it.”
When told it was like the Super Bowl, Rahm said the team that lost the NFL title game “still finished second” and added: “They have to understand golf is a little different.”
Defending tournament and playoff champion Dustin Johnson, last year’s Masters winner, shot 72 to stand on 142, one over the cut line. But he remains in the top 20 in season points and assured of playing next week’s BMW Championship in Baltimore.
Those missing the cut and outside the top 70 in points include Australian Adam Scott, Scotsmen Martin Laird and Russell Knox and England’s Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick.
© Agence France-Presse