2023 Hero World Challenge leaderboard: Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth share lead entering weekend
With Tiger Woods hovering near even-par, the event's other stars have risen to the top
Tiger Woods may be the story of the week, but it is a couple of other Masters champions who headline the leaderboard at the halfway point of the 2023 Hero World Challenge. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and fellow Texas Longhorn Jordan Spieth share the lead at 9 under through 36 holes at Albany Golf Club and sit one clear of Brian Harman.
After experiencing a rollercoaster first round filled with just five pars, Spieth signed for the first bogey-free effort of the week with his second-round 67. The three-time major champion hit all 13 fairways — a feat he has accomplished only three times in his PGA Tour career — and experienced a stress-free stroll few imagined possible after his opening 18.
"It was not as near as different as the scorecards look," said Spieth. "Yesterday, I had a toe-ball that I thought would be OK and it turned into a double, so that's a big number on the card, and then a couple of my bogeys were like 15-foot birdie putts that I just ran by. There was just some rust on the greens.
"I felt like I've been playing some good golf. I felt like yesterday wasn't a fluke," he continued. "I got in some good work early which I don't often do here. My coach was here. I was here early before the tournament just to get some good work in with good weather and just wasn't sure where I'd be. Normally, you think of it as a really nice tune-up to get ready to play in a few weeks and start the season, but if you can work your way into contention then you get more out of it then you anticipated coming in."
Spieth's second-round 67 was matched by Justin Thomas and Sepp Straka and bested only by Scheffler's 66. Having not played since the Ryder Cup, Scheffler sputtered out the gates Thursday with three bogeys in his first six holes. He has since settled down and found his groove -- not because of his typically great ball striking, but rather because of new-found faith with the putter.
Gaining nearly two strokes on the greens Friday, Scheffler finds himself ranked fourth in strokes gained putting through the first two rounds. He remains reliable off the tee, ranking top five in both distance and accuracy, and it has been his iron play (where he ranks 13th) that has surprisingly held him back.
"I drove it well, gave myself a lot of chances," said Scheffler. "Yeah, that's probably the thing I did best. Then for the most part I kept a clean card. I got a bad break on No. 8, made a bogey, and then got in a weird spot there on 18, but outside of that I played pretty solid."
If Scheffler's iron play reverts to historical levels, he will be the man to beat on a leaderboard filled with major champions. Champion Golfer of the Year Brian Harman battled back from a horrid opening stretch that saw him drop three shots in his four holes to sign for a 3-under 69.
The left-hander will be alongside Justin Thomas in the penultimate group Saturday. Thomas also bounced back from a poor start to his tournament and was terrific early with a front-nine 31. The Alabama alum scratched to an even-par back nine to position himself at 7 under and two off the pace.
U.S. Open winner Matt Fitzpatrick and two-time major champion Collin Morikawa find themselves three adrift at 6 under and alongside first-round leader Tony Finau, who experienced a middling round but remains right in the thick of it heading into the weekend.
Meanwhile, Woods bounced back from an opening 75 with ato hover closer to even par for the tournament. At 1 over, the 47-year-old is likely out of the running to raise the trophy, but he continues to show signs of improvement with each and every hole played. Woods will look to play the par 5s more effectively as he is 1 over on those 10 scoring holes through two rounds.
2023 Hero World Challenge leaderboard
T1. Scottie Scheffler (-9)
T1. Jordan Spieth (-9)
3. Brian Harman (-8)
4. Justin Thomas (-7)
T5. Matt Fitzpatrick (-6)
T5. Collin Morikawa (-6)
T5. Tony Finau (-6)
8. Sepp Straka (-5)
T9. Jason Day (-4)
T9. Cameron Young (-4)
T11. Lucas Glover (-3)
T11. Max Homa (-3)
13. Justin Rose (-1)
14. Rickie Fowler (E)
15. Tiger Woods (+1)
T16. Keegan Bradley (+2)
T16. Viktor Hovland (+2)
18. Sam Burns (+3)
T19. Wyndham Clark (+5)
T19. Will Zalatoris (+5)
Scheffler grabs solo lead
Well, well, well. The world No. 1 is out in front by his own after a birdie on the par-5 15th. Scottie Scheffler stands at 9 under and one clear of both Jordan Spieth and Matt Fitzpatrick.
Tiger signs for 70
All in all, it was a great day for the cat. Another fast start was hindered by a slow finish, but it was a 2-under 70 when it was all said and done. He won't be winning this tournament and there are things to work on, but he looks great from a physical perspective. Mentally he has to clean up the mistakes, but that will come with additional reps.
Woods gets one back
That was needed. After two straight bogeys, Woods finds a birdie on 17 from distance to get back to 2 under for the day. A par would mean a 70 and his first under par round since the third round of the Genesis.
Well that was ugly. Woods makes bogey on the par-5 15th and is now 3 over on that hole through two playings. This time came from the middle of the fairway he is attacked a tucked pin, blasted a bunker shot past the pin and then proceeded to putt the ball BACK into the greenside bunker. He got up-and-down the second time to save a bogey.
Woods cards his first bogey of the day
That was ugly. It was a great hole from tee to green on 13 as Woods found the fairway and hit his second to 13 feet, but Woods made a mess on the greens. Blasting his birdie bid well past, he was unable to salvage par and returns to even par for the tournament. That was a mental mistake if anything else.
Woods lets another par 5 go by
It is another par for Woods on a par 5. After finding the fairway and laying up just inside 100 yards, Woods missed the green with a wedge. A bump-and-run gave Woods 6 feet for par which he converted. He remains 4 under for the day, but he has to be somewhat peeved at his play on the par 5s so far.
Tiger turns in 32
Four birdies and five pars make up Tiger's opening nine of his second round. There is a lot to be encouraged about especially when considering he made just one birdie among the three par 5s. A forgetful chip on the par-5 9th settled to 10 feet before missing his bid on the low side. That has been the main bugaboo so far as he is just 1 under through the first eight par 5s of his tournament.
Expectations are going to be absurd if Woods keeps on this pace. Another birdie on the short par-4 7th has Tiger Woods at 1 under for the tournament and 4 under for the day. It has been clinical thus far. The short game has sharpened over the last two holes with a pair of stellar bunker shots to set up birdies. He's currently T12 but only four off the pace.
Tiger adds another
There we go. A nice, easy birdie for Tiger comes on the par-5 6th (a hole he made bogey on Thursday). Finding the fairway and lacing his second greenside, Woods chipped his third to just about 5 feet before converting for his third birdie of the day. I mentioned at the top those five holes would need to be had and so far he has given himself two looks inside 10 feet. Yesterday, he had zero! Big improvement early.