Sensational Spieth surges into US PGA contention

By Sports Desk May 17, 2019

Jordan Spieth significantly boosted his chances of completing the Grand Slam with a magnificent second round at the US PGA Championship that saw him take the clubhouse lead.

The American came home in just 31 strokes and a four-under-par 66 left him on five under for the tournament, which was just two shots shy of first-round leader Brooks Koepka, who was set to start his round at 1.49pm local time.

Spieth has been plagued by inconsistency over the past 18 months but a trademark surge on the back nine at Bethpage Black moved him well into contention.

Starting at the 10th, Spieth was level par through his first nine holes but birdies at the first and fourth were followed by additional gains at the seventh and eighth – the latter a monster putt from 39 feet.

World number one Dustin Johnson shot a three-under 67 and he was just three shots back of Koepka at four under alongside Daniel Berger.

Rory McIlroy made a shocking start that saw him go five over through his first three holes.

The Northern Irishman made a recovery on his back nine, though, and finished at three over for the tournament – just inside the projected cut line.

Jon Rahm faces the possibility of missing the weekend after the Spaniard signed for a poor 75 that left him five over through two rounds.

Veteran Rich Beem, who now works mainly as a pundit, rolled back the years. He came home in just 30 strokes and at four over for the tournament may still make the weekend.

Tiger Woods was due to tee off with Koepka and will seek a fast start after shooting a two-over 72 on Thursday. 

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    J.B. Holmes was delighted to execute his game plan to perfection to take a first-round lead at The Open.

    The American, who finished third at the tournament in 2016, carded a 66 to sit one shot clear of Shane Lowry and a vast chasing pack a further stroke back

    A birdie at the last was the icing on the cake for the 37-year-old, who felt all parts of his game were firing at Royal Portrush on Thursday.

    "I hit it great. I didn't miss too many shots. When I did I missed them in the right spot," he said after a five-under round in which his only blemish came at the first.

    "I putted well. Stuck to our game plan and just executed about as perfectly as I could do it."

    There were times when the Dunluce track played like a typical links course, with the winds picking up and the rain lashing down, but Holmes enjoyed the challenge.

    "You just have to accept the conditions over here and not get too greedy and go after some pins," he explained. 

    "Try to hit it to the fat of the green, the middle of the green and hopefully make some putts.

    "It's a lot different than we play in the States, you're firing at flags and everything else. Here you're trying to get it in the right spot on the green and make a putt."

    His low-scoring exploits stand in stark contrast to a couple of the pre-tournament favourites, with home hope Rory McIlroy signing for a 79, while Tiger Woods only managed one better than the Northern Irishman.

  • Reality stings for Rory McIlroy on Portrush homecoming Reality stings for Rory McIlroy on Portrush homecoming

    In sport the greatest of dreams can instantly become the stuff of nightmares.

    For Rory McIlroy, Thursday's Royal Portrush homecoming for the first round of The Open must have felt like that fabled dream where you're stood naked in front of a room of your peers, as his worst fears were laid bare in front of the world in a torrid round on the Dunluce links.

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    Addressing the media this week, McIlroy discussed how he did not feel like the centre of attention.

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    "I usually get nervous on the first tee anyway, regardless of where it is. So maybe a little more so today than other places. But I don't think it was that. It was a bit of a tentative golf swing with a hard wind off to the right and the ball just got going left on me."

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    Spaniard Rahm, a man in form having won the Irish Open at the start of the month for the second time in his career, was in fine touch on the Dunluce Links.

    Rahm made birdies at the second and fourth holes before picking up three straight gains before the turn to reach five under through nine, lifting him one clear of clubhouse leader Shane Lowry.

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    The four-time major winner dropped a shot at 17 to fall into a stacked pack at three under, a score Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Ryan Fox all achieved after 18 holes – the latter having recorded the lowest back nine in Open history with 29.

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