Jon Rahm has 2-shot lead on several players in Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston in Norton
NORTON — The PGA Tour has exactly what it wants for the final 36 holes of the Dell Technologies Championship.
Twenty players are within 5 shots of the lead, with a young phenom in Jon Rahm atop the leaderboard at 9-under par and the game’s biggest names in hot pursuit.
After an up-and-down back nine that included a double bogey and an eagle, Rahm played superbly on the front side with five birdies, taking advantage of the easier parts of the golf course to get to 9-under and a 2-shot lead over Adam Hadwin, Paul Casey, Kyle Stanley and Kevin Streelman and four-way logjam at 6-under that includes Phil Mickelson.
The trio of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas — Nos. 1-3 in the FedEx Cup standings — have each had their share of highs and lows over the opening 36 holes. Most importantly for event officlals, all three remain in the hunt.
Johnson, the first-round leader, dropped a shot with a 72 yesterday that has him 5 back in a share of 15th. He made a pair of double bogeys on the back nine as part of his round that also included five birdies.
After shooting an opening-round 72 in which he “woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” Spieth quickly got things going as he put together a 65 with just one bogey and is tied for 10th at 5-under. He birdied the first two holes and repeated at Nos. 6 and 7 and made three more in the final four holes. None of the birdies required a putt of more than 15 feet.
While Spieth did not play well Friday, the way he closed with two birdies on the front side put him in a much better frame of mind coming back to TPC Boston for the second round.
“To stay patient and to get two birdies coming back in, to at least you could do something (yesterday), that was big,” Spieth said.
Thomas grinded out a bogey-free 67 and is at 4-under overall with just a single bogey over the two days.
“I don’t have my best stuff, so I’m really pleased to keep the scorecard as clean as I have,” he said. “I would like to be able to hit some shots and get some putts to fall to feel like I’ve made anything.”
Most interesting is the resurgence of Mickelson. Citing better focus and energy that led to a 69 in Friday’s windy conditions, he followed with a 67 that has him at 6-under-par 136 in a share of sixth.
The 47-year-old finds himself in a rare spot, needing to show his worth for U.S. Presidents Cup captain Steve Stricker to select him with one of his two wild card selections for later this month at Liberty National in New Jersey. This is the final event before the team is selected with the two picks being announced on Wednesday.
“He needs to do what’s best for the team. He needs to get the best guys on the team,” said Mickelson, who has played all 11 tournaments since its formation in 1994 and has a 23-16-12 career record. “These are fun events, but they’re also important and we want to win and as a captain it’s his job, responsibility, to make the tough decisions and do what’s in the best interest of the team and I support that either way.
“I would love to be the one he felt added to the team, but if I’m not, he’s got to make that tough call. I totally understand it. I’ve had a tough time for a while, but these two rounds, although they’ve been great, I don’t know if that’s enough or not. Let’s see how the weekend goes and we’ll go from there.”
Mickelson had five birdies and one bogey in his round and that improved focus showed as he closed by chipping to 2 feet for a par at No. 17 and made birdie at No. 18.
In a sign of increased energy, Mickelson said he was going to hit the range following his round, something he said he has not done in quite some time.
The cut line was 3-over par with 79 players moving on. Among the notables on the wrong side of the line were Rory McIlroy, Billy Horschel and Adam Scott.
With rain expected today, players will once again go off in threesomes and utilize both the first and 10th tees.