WASHINGTON: Reigning US Open champion Jordan Spieth fired a five-under par 65 Friday to achieve the lowest 36-hole start of his PGA career at his hometown Byron Nelson Championship.
World No.2 Spieth, who began coming to the Dallas event as a child, stood on 11-under 129 at TPC Four Seasons to share second place alongside Spain’s Sergio Garcia and US compatriots Brooks Koepka and Bud Cauley.
American Ben Crane, seeking his sixth career PGA victory, sank a 14-foot birdie on his final hole to grab the halfway lead on 128 with a 63, but it was Spieth’s performance that raised eyebrows the most.
The 22-year-old Texan missed the cut last week at the Players Championship, his first event after a last-nine meltdown cost him a second consecutive wire-to-wire Masters victory and handed England’s Danny Willett a green jacket.
“The Masters felt like it was quite a while ago,” Spieth said. “Well, I mean, two tournaments ago. It does feel like a while, though.”
Spieth, who will defend his US Open crown next month at Oakmont, managed his best Byron Nelson finish to date in 2010 when he shared 16th at age 16.
“It will be fantastic. I’m excited thinking about it right now,” Spieth said of the weekend.
“I need to come back from how I played last week and play myself into a rhythm heading into another major championship. I’m finding the rhythm with the putts and that’s a really good feeling.”
Spieth began off the 10th tee Friday and made his first birdie putt from 10 feet at the 12th hole only to stumble with his lone bogey at the par-3 13, missing a five-foot par putt. He answered with a 21-foot birdie putt at 14.
Closing out his first nine with three birdies in a row, Spieth tapped-in from two feet at the par-5 16th, drained a 35-foot stunner at 17 and an impressive 11-footer at 18.
On the front nine, Spieth made eight pars and a tap-in birdie at the par-5 seventh. He missed his only green in regulation on his final hole but escaped with a par.
“I’m putting myself in good positions off the tee,” Spieth said. “Started to find a little rhythm at the end of the round. A bit fortunate with that. Hopefully I can tie those in closer to the hole.”
Crane, also a back-nine starter, opened with a birdie and made three in a row at 17, 18 and the first hole, the last on a 20-foot birdie putt.
A 24-yard chip-in birdie from a greenside bunker at the third ignited Crane, who birdied the fourth and sixth to grab the lead, made his lone bogey at eight but birdied the ninth to pass Spieth, Garcia and company to lead alone.
“I’ve been working very hard on my short game,” Crane said. “Everything is in a good place. I’ve just got to keep going.
“I’ve scrambled really well and made some key putts, made a bunker shot — it’s just one of those days when everything comes together.”