PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka on Friday charged into a share of the lead with Jamie Lovemark as Tiger Woods struggled on the greens to narrowly make the cut at the Northern Trust.
Koepka caught fire after an eagle at the 13th to blitz home with a six-under 65 and tie Lovemark at the top at 10-under 132.
Lovemark shot 66 for the second day at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey.
“I hit it about as hard as I could,” Koepka said of the massive three-wood shot that carried more than 300 yards to set up his eagle.
Australian Adam Scott, another late charger, was a stroke back of the leaders after a 64, with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson (67) and Bryson DeChambeau (66) tied for fourth at eight-under 134.
Woods, two weeks after being runner-up to Koepka at the PGA Championship, stayed alive in the FedEx Cup playoffs with a repeat 71 that left him right on the projected cut at even-par and 10 strokes back.
A three-putt bogey at the last had him sweating as to whether his tournament was over.
“Golf’s one of those things where you just have to make putts. I mean, no matter how good. You hit your golf ball tee-to-green, still got to hole it,” Woods told Golf Channel after needing 35 putts. “Today was one of those days when I didn’t make anything.”
Phil Mickelson, who is to go head-to-head with Woods in November for a US$9 million winner-take-all pay-per-view event, putted much better than Woods, making six birdies in a round of 68 to land four strokes off the lead at 136.
First round coleader Lovemark enjoyed a four-shot lead at one point before former champion Scott and then Koepka charged home.
Scott, playing ahead of Koepka and with four birdies on the front nine, bounced back from a bogey at the 10th to deliver four more birdies, three in a row from the 12th, to pull within one of Lovemark.
“I felt like I had everything under control today,” Scott said. “Really important stretch around the turn for me. I bogeyed 10, then made a really good par save on 11 and got back on the horse where I wanted to be.”
Then along came Koepka.
A mixture of two birdies and two bogeys had left him at even-par for the day through 11 holes.
However, the three-time major winner found another birdie at the 12th, then sank a 22-foot putt for the eagle before closing the round with three consecutive birdies.
“If I’ve got the feeling,” Koepka said. “I’ve simplified the game so much. There’s no swing thought. There’s no anything. I’m not trying to work on anything while I’m out there. I’m just trying to hit the correct shot.”
Taiwan’s C.T. Pan carded a one-over 72 to slip into a share of 67th.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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