2018 Byron Nelson: Adam Scott vying for U.S. Open spot after 65 in Round 2
Stars are showing out at Trinity Forest this week, and that's a good thing
No matter what happens this week at the 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson, Jordan Spieth is the star of the show.to follow up his 2-under 69 from Thursday and sits inside the top 20 after two rounds at his hometown event.
Spieth is eight back of leader Marc Leishman, though, and the big Australian had another monster day at a track that was seemingly built for his shot-shaping game. Leishman followed his 61 on Thursday with a 66 on Friday and sits at 15 under after 36 holes. That's one clear of Aaron Wise and two clear of Brian Gay, but four clear of everyone else.
Leishman has 12 birdies and two eagles to go with just one bogey so far, and he has been borderline flawless. He's first in strokes gained putting and top 15 in strokes gained from tee to green. He's making the PGA Tour's newest track look, well, easy.
"It's always tough to follow up a really low one with another good one," said Leishman. "Happy to shoot 5 under again today and just keep momentum going. Played well, struck the ball very well and reading the greens well and hitting good putts. So it's a pretty good combination for a good score."
There have been signs from Leishman -- he finished top 10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Masters -- but none in the last month. Still, he came into the week with some confidence.
"I actually played really well last week at The Players," said Leishman. "I finished 63rd but the signs were actually there. I hit a lot of good shots. I said to my wife Sunday night, 'I feel like I should have finished in the top 10 and finished 60th.'"
Now Leishman has a chance to grab PGA Tour win No. 4 in impressive fashion if he can stave off an increasingly-impressive leaderboard and beat back what could be some tough conditions over the weekend.
"I don't think it really matters too much what the conditions are," said Leishman. "You just got to play well, strike the ball well. It's important to hit good tee shots and then that ... (puts) you in a good position on the green and (you) give yourself birdie chances. I'm not disappointed that the wind's forecast to get up."
Among the chasers, fellow Aussie Adam Scott probably poses the most interesting threat to Leishman (more on that in a minute), but we're also one special Spieth round from having a fascinating Sunday showdown. Here are a few more thoughts on a boiling day at Trinity Forest.
1. Adam Scott's quest: There's a big streak on the line this week as Scott, ranked No. 65 in the world, tries to climb back into the top 60 and qualify for the U.S. Open. Only one golfer (Sergio Garcia) has played in more consecutive major championships than Scott, and now the former Masters winner is inside the top 10 and sitting pretty after opening 67-65. He's No. 3 in the field in strokes gained on approach shots, which is where Scott should be in strokes gained on approach shots.
"I really haven't challenged the golf course at all in two days," said Scott who is 10 under and five back of Leishman. "I played back a lot which I think is actually kind of playing to my strengths. When I'm striking the irons good I can lay back and take zero risk off the tee and maybe have to hit a 6-iron when I feel I have the control to do that."
Must be nice. It's also nice that his pal -- and playing partner for the first two days -- Leishman is rooting for an all-Aussie Sunday afternoon.
"It's always good playing with Scotty," said Leishman. "We've become really good friends over the years and haven't been paired together a whole lot. To play together and both play well was really good and hopefully we can both keep it going on the weekend. It would be nice to be paired together in the last group Sunday, but we'll have tomorrow first and see how we go."
2. Course is not great for spectating but amazing for strategy: I made it out to Trinity Forest on Friday, and while spectating is tougher than on a normal course, watching players think makes it worth it. I followed a few architecturally-inclined players who were geeking out over the angles and pins. It was both enjoyable and made me think. Here's what Brian Gay, who is currently in third after a 9-under 62, had to say.
"The angles are more important than playing the slopes," said Gay. "You need to know where to land your approach shots when it gets windy."
"It's all about the second shot," he added. "There's also a few tee balls to get some angles, and it depends on where the wind is blowing. It's generous off the tee, gives you options."
There's not another course on the PGA Tour you'll hear that about as much as you will this one.
3. Aaron Wise is the real deal: The former Oregon Duck was tremendous once again on Friday with a 63 in Round 2. After missing two straight cuts, he's looking for his second top 10 in as many events and continues to, impressively, put himself in contention with the best players in the world. We lose sight of age because of the Jordan Spieths and Justin Thomases of the world, but Wise is not supposed to be doing what he's doing at the age of 21.
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