WASHINGTON (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS) – J.J. Spaun was glad that everything was going his way, after he sank two late clutch putts to fire a three-under 67 and take a one-stroke lead after Friday’s (Aug 12) second round of the PGA Tour’s St. Jude Championship.
The 31-year-old American sank a 13-foot birdie putt on his penultimate hole, then closed with a seven-foot par putt to stand on 11-under 129 at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tennessee.
“I feel good. It’s exciting,” said Spaun, who made five birdies and two bogeys while posting the top 36-hole score of his career.
“Still a lot of golf left. Just going to try to keep doing what I’ve been doing the last two days and hopefully it will pay off.”
Austrian Sepp Straka, who missed six straight cuts entering the event, shared second on 130 after a 66 with American Troy Merritt.
The St. Jude Championship is the opener of the FedEx Cup play-offs, a season-ending trio of events with a winner’s prize of US$18 million (S$24.7 million).
Only 125 players qualified on season points and only the top 70 advance to next week’s BMW Championship, where the 30 qualifiers for the Tour Championship in Atlanta are decided.
Spaun is looking for his second career PGA Tour victory after winning the Valero Open in April.
But he has not fared well since the triumph. Though he tied for eighth at the Rocket Mortgage Classic late last month, he missed the cut five times and withdrew after the first round in another event during a 10-tournament stretch since the Valero victory.
One of the missed cuts was at last week’s Wyndham Championship in North Carolina.
“I worked on some good things in the past couple weeks that are starting to pay off,” he said.
“And especially this week, too, kind of got a nice feel with my swing and just trusting it. And the putter is working, too, so that’s a nice equaliser if things aren’t going your way from tee to green.”
Straka birdied four of the last five holes to shoot 66.
“Hadn’t played great coming into this week,” he said.
“But that’s golf. You’re going to have the ebbs and flows, and just go with it.”
Four-time Major champion Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland missed the weekend after a 69 to stand on 139, one over the cut line.
Top-ranked Masters champion Scottie Scheffler suffered his fourth missed cut of the season, a 68 leaving him on 139 as well, but he kept the season points lead.
South Korean Kim Si-woo, who shared the 18-hole lead with Spaun on 62, stumbled back with a 73 to stand on 135, as did reigning FedExCup defending champion Patrick Cantlay after a 68.