Justin Thomas leads John Deere, Jordan Spieth surges up board
By Luke Meredith
SILVIS, Ill. (AP) – Four holes into Friday's second round, Jordan Spieth knew he was in danger of missing the cut.
The Masters and U.S. Open champion will head into Saturday knowing he's got a shot at another win before the Open Championship.
Spieth bounced back from an even-par opening round with a 7-under 64 to give himself a chance to contend at the John Deere Classic.
Spieth, 21, still has a lot of work to do to catch the leaders, though.
He's five shots behind Justin Thomas, who leads with a 12-under 130 total. Johnson Wagner is a shot back after shooting a second-round 63, as is Tom Gillis after shooting a 65.
Spieth said he knew he needed to shoot at least a 67 on Friday. He did better than that.
"It doesn't matter if it's a course that yields a lot of birdies. It's still hard to do on the PGA Tour. I wasn't taking it for granted. I was still searching," said Spieth, who will try for his third straight major title next week at St. Andrews. "Once I got a couple of shorter putts to go in and got a little bit of breathing room, I was able to be patient knowing that there were other birdie holes left."
Spieth took two weeks off after winning the U.S. Open and acknowledged he was rusty during his first round at the TPC Deere Run.
After opening with four straight pars Friday, Spieth finally got going with four birdies and an eagle over a remarkable seven-hole stretch.
Spieth, who started on the back nine, stuck his approach on the par-4 14th hole within 3 feet. He then hit putts of 24 and 16 feet to get to 3 under.
The best hole of the tournament for Spieth came on No. 2. A 319-yard drive and a 241-yard approach left him with a 4-foot eagle putt.
Spieth needed just 25 putts Friday. This week is playing out similarly to his first tournament after winning the Masters. After opening the RBC Heritage in late April with a 74, Spieth shot a 62 in the second round.
"I knew I'd have my chances, and then my putter started working," Spieth said.
Thomas, 22, has had something of a rivalry with Spieth for years.
They were two of the best college golfers in the country while Thomas was at Alabama and Spieth was at Texas, though Spieth has clearly outpaced Thomas in the pro ranks.
But it's Thomas who heads into the weekend with the advantage.
Thomas opened play with a tournament-best 63 and followed it up with a solid 67. Thomas had five more birdies Friday, putting himself in position for his first career win after losing the lead with a dreadful back nine at last week's Greenbrier Classic.
"I've had my opportunities and I've learned from my mistakes, learned from the times when I didn't feel like I played or made the mental decision I felt like I should have," Thomas said.
Zach Johnson won't tee off Saturday with one of the top groupings.
But he's in prime position for another strong finish at the TPC Deere Run.
Johnson, who won here in 2012 and has finished in the top three in five of his last six starts at Deere Run, strung together three straight birdies for a 68. It was his 26th straight round in the 60s at this course.
Johnson is four back of Thomas at 8 under and one shot ahead of Spieth.
"I had my chances," Johnson said. "I just didn't get it in the low, low number. But I can't be too upset."
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