Johnson takes 1-shot lead over Spieth at Liberty National

ABS-CBN Sports on Aug 10, 2019 07:54 AM
Johnson takes 1-shot lead over Spieth at Liberty National
Dustin Johnson drives to the 12th hole in the Northern Trust tournament at Liberty National Golf Course, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, in Jersey City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

By Doug Ferguson, Associated Press

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Dustin Johnson is hitting the ball so well he doesn't have to make every putt. He made enough birdies Friday for a 4-under 67 that gave him a one-shot lead in The Northern Trust.

Johnson holed an 8-foot putt on the 18th at Liberty National to take the lead going into the weekend of the FedEx Cup playoffs opener, a tournament he has won twice at other courses.

Spieth began the PGA Tour postseason not assured of advancing beyond the first event. He had a 64 and is one round away from having a chance to end a two-year victory drought.

Johnson was at 12-under 130.

Rory McIlroy had a 68 and was three shots behind, which was better than five. He originally was assessed a two-shot penalty in the bunker until it was rescinded based on intent.

Tiger Woods withdrew before his round started with a mild oblique strain.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Right when it looked as though everything would go wrong for Jordan Spieth, he had some fortune on his side during a trying season.

His solid round Friday in The Northern Trust was headed for a potentially bad ending when he sent his tee shot well to the right on the 464-yard ninth hole. Buried in deep fescue, he was allowed a drop because his feet were on the cart path. The next shot came out hot, but it hit a knoll to deaden the speed and took a big hop to the right to 18 feet for a final birdie and a 7-under 64.

Spieth, not even assured of advancing out of the first stage of the FedEx Cup playoffs, had a one-shot lead over Abraham Ancer among early starters in the second round. Troy Merritt, who led after an opening 62, played in the afternoon. There's still two rounds left, and Spieth still has memories of last week in North Carolina when he went from contention to missing the 54-hole cut in one round.

Still, the finish of this round was a sign that he can still get a good break or two.

"It's funny," he said. "When things are going well, you do end up getting all the bounces, too. It's just amazing how it works. When you're playing well, you're confident, you're positive the whole time that it goes your way. And when you're not, they just don't. There's something to it."

One hole earlier, he escaped a few bad breaks with a 10-foot par save.

"Do I look at it as a massive turning point? No," Spieth said. "I think I look at it from a daily perspective of, 'Yeah, I got a nice break there after one that didn't go my way.' Playing those two holes with 1 under where I was at was stealing a stroke or two."

He could use all the help.

Spieth is at No. 69 in the FedEx Cup, one year after he failed to reach the Tour Championship for the first time. Going into the PGA Tour's postseason, he needed to play well to at least be sure he was among the top 70 to reach the BMW Championship at Medinah next week.

Tiger Woods might not make it to Medinah, though it has nothing to do with his position in the FedEx Cup. He withdrew from the second round with what he described as a mild strain of the oblique, which Woods said led to pain and stiffness during his opening round of 75.

He said he sought treatment Friday morning and was not able to keep going. He was hopeful of playing next week at the Chicago-area course where he twice won the PGA Championship in younger, healthier times.

Ancer is at No. 67, so his bogey-free round of 65 was helpful. Ancer birdied all of the par 5s at Liberty National, which remained soft from more overnight rain.

"It was definitely very different from yesterday," Ancer said of an opening round that featured a hole-out from 104 yards for eagle, a 60-foot chip-in and two bogeys. "Today was very steady — some good ball-striking and the ball started to fall in on the back nine."

Spieth was at 11-under 131, the same score he had through two rounds at the Wyndham Championship last week when everything went wrong in a 77 that took him from a chance to win to a Sunday with no tee time.

"The important thing for me is not to get ahead of myself," Spieth said. "Historically, I'm a very consistent player. I've lost a bit of that. I still have the firepower but that consistency is what I'm trying to get back, and there's certainly going to be times where I'm out of position over the weekend. It's about limiting mistakes. One bogey over 36 holes is somewhat unrealistic week to week. But if I can hold it close to that for the next 36, again, that firepower is still there. And it would certainly shoot my confidence up."

Andrew Putnam also had a 64 and was at 9-under 133, along with Justin Rose (68). Justin Thomas (68) was in the group of players who were at 7-under 135.

The season might have ended early for Sergio Garcia, who had another 73 and was projected to fall out of the top 70.

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