When Jordan Spieth finished his second round in first place at 8-under par, he expected at least one player from the afternoon session would surpass him.
That never happened.
Swirling winds with gusts over 20 mph sent many shots awry and quickened the greens to toughen TPC River Highlands. Still, when the sun set Friday, Spieth was the leader of the Travelers Championship.
"You know, I didn't expect to be on to the same level as a 63 [first-round score] but I just got a little bit -- the swing was just -- it's close," Spieth said. "It was just kind of an off day, and I'm glad I was able to still shoot 1-under with an off round."
And still be the leader.
His 69 put him at 8-under 132, one stroke ahead of Troy Merritt (68--133) and Patrick Reed (66--133). Wesley Bryan (67), Daniel Summerhays (68), Chase Seiffert (66) and Boo Weekley (68) tied for fourth at 134.
Brett Stegmaier of Madison, who tied for second after the first round with a 64, carded a 72. Bogeys at Nos. 2, 5 and 6 led to his front nine 37. Birdies at 14 and 17 kept him within four shots back of Spieth in a 10-player tie for 17th.
Eighty five players made the cut at 140. Among those who failed were Jason Day, No. 4 in the World Golf Rankings (70--142); 2010 and '15 champion Bubba Watson (67--142) and 12th ranked Justin Thomas (72--145)
Spieth, the first-round leader, started on the back nine and birdied the 12th from 7 1/2 feet.
The better scoring opportunities were in the morning with the greens damp from some showers and nary a breeze. Anirban Lahiri recorded the lowest score in the morning and the round with a 63, which included five birdies and an eagle putt of 32 feet, 3 inches.
When Spieth stepped to the tee at the par-5 13 he was thinking birdie or maybe an eagle. It was the fourth easiest hole in round one.
But he hooked his drive into the railroad tracks to the left of the rough. "Just trying to play a power fade off the bunkers and I just double crossed it," he said. "It's a tough tee shot early in a round, because I think instead of just looking at where I wanted to hit it, I was looking at where I didn't want to be."
A penalty stroke for the out-of-bounds shot and provisional drive led to a double-bogey 7 to put him back at 6-under overall.
Spieth birdied the first and third to go 9 under, to hold a two-shot lead over Merritt and Bryan. Spieth couldn't get up and down from a greenside bunker at No. 5 and made bogey 4 to drop to 8 under. He parred in for his 69.
Merritt, who missed four straight cuts with a tie for 11th in the Sanderson Farms Championship his top finish, had three birdies and one bogey. He said he's "in a position after two rounds that we haven't been in in a long time."
Playing this weekend is welcomed at TPC River Highlands, which he said he feels "comfortable" competing on. "I always felt like I could make a lot of birdies," he said. "I just made a lot of bogies as well."
The cut he made Friday was only his second in six appearances in the tournament.
When Reed stepped on the first tee at 1 p.m. Merritt's and Spieth's rounds already had been completed.
The scoring average in the morning was 70.46, compared to 71.18 in the afternoon. Reed wasn't thinking about numbers, except posting his lowest numbers, as he opened with birdies at 1, 6 and 8. With his boring ball flight, he often beat the wind.
"This is the hardest I've seen the golf course play in the past couple years," said Reed, playing in his sixth straight Travelers Championship.
A birdie at 13 that featured two stellar shots put him at 7 under. The first was a second-shot 3-wood into a strong wind that went just over the green; the second was a flop shot that set up a 3-foot birdie putt.
Reed rebounded from a bogey 4 at 16 to birdie 18 with a 127-yard approach that left the ball 13 feet, 5 inches from the cup. He made the putt.
He's in the final threesome at 1:05 p.m. Saturday with Merritt and Spieth, who he had teamed with in the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Spieth, who ranks first in strokes gained around the green (3.406) and total (8.868) in the Travelers Championship, is the 36-hole leader or co/leader for first time in a tournament debut.
"(Spieth) putts it really well," Bryan said. "I mean he made a couple of mistakes that were I feel uncharacteristic with wedges in his hands the last couple of days. You would think this weekend he's going to sharpen up and keep running out in front. Hopefully, I can catch up with him."
This article is written by Tom Yantz from The Hartford Courant and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
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