NEW YORK (AFP) – Top-ranked Jon Rahm, the reigning US Open champion, fired a bogey-free four-under par 67 to grab a one-stroke lead during Friday’s (Aug 20) second round of the US PGA Northern Trust tournament.
The 26-year-old Spaniard stood on 12-under par 130 without a bogey through 36 holes at Liberty National in suburban New York at the first FedEx Cup playoff event.
“It’s nice to be bogey-free, but it’s not like it’s goal number one. Might be actually first time I go 36 holes bogey-free,” Rahm said.
“The goal is to win a tournament and put yourself in the best position. If I had to choose, I would rather be leading than bogey-free.”
Among the early finishers Friday, American Tony Finau was second on 131 after a 64 Friday with fifth-ranked Justin Thomas and fellow American Keith Mitchell sharing third on 132 and Sweden’s Alex Noren and American Kevin Na another stroke adrift.
Rahm, who captured his first major title in June at Torrey Pines, said he was most pleased about keeping his composure, notably in the wake of poor wedge shots on approaches at the third and 16th holes.
“I’m leaving myself a really tough up-and-down and I was able to make good putts for par,” Rahm said.
“Just accepting that I can miss shots. You get a little too greedy, miss the green, and you can have a tough up-and-down, and I’ve been able to save those so far.
“Coming into the weekend, I’m definitely going to have to clean a couple of those mistakes up.”
Rahm began off the 10th tee and dropped his approach to seven feet at the par-5 13th before sinking a birdie putt, then added a clutch 24-foot putt to save par at the par-4 16th.
After making a 10-foot par putt at the third, Rahm birdied three of the next four holes, his longest putt from just outside five feet at the par-3 fourth.
The event is the first of three FedEx Cup playoff tournaments to crown a season points champion, with fields reduced to 70 next week and 30 for the Tour Championship at Atlanta in two weeks.
“It’s important,” Rahm said of the Cup. “It’s a trophy that a very select group of people are going to be able to put their name in. It’s one of those like in majors and great events like The Players to where we’re called upon and you have to show up and play good.”
Rahm said he doesn’t like a system where you could win two playoff events but have a poor final week and finish well back.
“Hopefully, you get there ranked high enough to not have to make up that big of a difference, but you know what you’ve got to do and what you’re playing for, and I think that’s what makes it so exciting,” Rahm said.
Defending tournament and playoff champion Dustin Johnson, last year’s Masters winner, was on 142 after a 72, just over the projected cut line.