McKINNEY, Texas: Jordan Spieth thought his hometown Byron Nelson’s course would play tougher after getting more birdies in his debut than any other PGA Tour event last season.
The three-time major winner says he couldn’t have been more wrong and is frankly surprised at how little he feels has been done the first two days to make TPC Craig Ranch a tougher test.
Ryan Palmer, one of the Dallas-area players in the shadow of Spieth and Masters champ Scottie Scheffler, shot a 10-under 62 on Friday and was tied at 15-under with Sebastián Muñoz and the 40-man tour rookie. years David Skinns.
Muñoz, a Colombian who lives in the Dallas area and went to the University of North Texas, even went through 13 holes after his second 60 of the season – a first on the PGA Tour – before birdies on three of four holes for a 69. Skinns shot 63.
Justin Lower, another older rookie on the circuit at 33, was lone fourth, one shot behind the leaders after a 66.
“I mean, a 60 yesterday and a lot of 8s (under) and 7s all over the place,” said Spieth, who shot 65 and was three shots off the lead in a group that includes defending champion KH Lee.
“It’s just that a lot of starts are in place, it was very surprising,” Spieth said. “I think they considered the weekend to be a lot less windy so they used more of the easier pins the first two days because I can only name one or two pins on this golf course that don’t Were not the two easiest places that are on the Greens. I’m a bit surprised how, on a not so difficult golf course, they also set it up a bit easier for us too.
The Nelson was the only 2020-21 tournament with more than 2,000 birdies (2,007). There were 38 Eagles in the first round on Thursday, the most for a single round this season.
Charl Schwartzel had one of Friday’s eagles in a round of 65 that put him at 13 under. The 2011 Masters winner entered a greenside bunker on the par-4, 316-yard 14th and dug from there.
The top-ranked Scheffler, who had four wins in six individual events capped by the Masters victory, shot a 68 and was 9 under after two rounds alongside fellow former Texas Longhorns in Spieth and Lee.
Palmer, who finished his first round with an eagle on the par-5 18th, started on the back nine and hit six of the final seven holes on that side, then added four more up front in a round without bogey.
The 45-year-old hasn’t won an individual event since 2010 in Hawaii. Palmer lives near Colleyville and is a member of the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, where the tour returns in two weeks after the PGA Championship in Southern Hills.
Palmer had a two-shot lead halfway through his final Texas stop at San Antonio in early April before shooting 7 times over the weekend. He is a four-time winner, including the 2019 Zurich team event in New Orleans with Jon Rahm.
“I spent 19 years doing this, unbelievable that I’ve been here that long, and these young guys…you have to play such good golf to beat them,” Palmer said. “We’re in position again and we’re going to learn from what we learned in San Antonio and try to do that here.”
Lee won Craig Ranch’s rainy debut at Under-25 while Spieth tied for ninth, his personal best in a tournament he really wants to win due to his remarkable Nelson pro debut as a 16-year-old candidate on Sunday in 2010.
There is no trace of rain this time in McKinney, about 30 miles north of downtown Dallas, and the wind was brisk the first two days. Combine that with the expectation that crude will be more of a factor a year after a deep February freeze wiped it out, and Spieth reckoned the scores would be higher.
Instead, he found himself calling the displaced tee box on the par-5 ninth, who played just 474 yards and averaged nearly three-quarters under par on Friday. It was the easiest hole on the course.
The course designed by Tom Weiskopf also has wide fairways and large greens.
“I know a bit about some of the courses I played in South Africa,” said Schwartzel, who finished tied for third at 21 under last year. “I don’t feel claustrophobic off the tee. It gives me some space, and once I can put it into play, iron play isn’t much of an issue. So really comfortable.
Skinns, an Englishman who hasn’t finished in the top 25 in 20 PGA Tour appearances spanning nearly a decade, birdied five straight from the par-3 seventh in his career-best round.
Lower finished no higher than tied for 15th in an individual event. He partnered with Dylan Wu to place 10th in the team event in New Orleans.
Ninth-ranked Spieth and No. 17 Joaquin Niemann, also under 12, top the list of top 10 in the world’s top 30 in the field.
No. 13 Hideki Matsuyama was 11 under, one stroke better than eighth-seeded Justin Thomas, who spent the first two days in the group ahead of Spieth, his good friend and house guest for this week.
No. 11 Dustin Johnson had 7 under, and 12th-placed Xander Schauffele rallied from 3 for the tournament early in the second round with eight birdies from 10 holes to make the cut on the number at 5 under.
The rest of the top 30 missed the cut: Sam Burns, 10th, second to Lee at Nelson last year; Will Zalatoris (28th), another player in the event from his hometown; and Kevin Kisner (30th).