By Steve Habel, The Sports Xchange
FORT WORTH, Texas — The combination of windy conditions and the demands for game management and confident putting have created a logjam at the top of the leaderboard after the second round of the Dean & Deluca Invitational.
Twenty-one players are within five shots of the lead and more wind, and maybe some rain, is still on the menu for the weekend.
Danny Lee of New Zealand and Americans Webb Simpson, Kevin Kisner and Scott Piercy share a one-stroke lead at 6-under-par 134 after Friday’s round, which was played in warm, windy and cloudless conditions at storied Colonial Country Club.
But there is plenty of firepower just off the pace and nothing is easy here on this venerable course set on the banks of the Trinity River.
Lee’s 6-under 64, which included seven birdies and a bogey, was the low round of the day and the first two days of the tournament. Simpson and Piercy carded 66s and Kisner signed for a 67.
Those four golfers set the pace for a crowded field, with England’s Paul Casey (66), Spaniards Sergio Garcia (66) and Jon Rahm (69), and Sean O’Hair (68) a shot back and tied for fifth. Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland (70) is alone in ninth, two shots in arrears.
Tony Finau shot a 65 and climbed into contention and into 10th place, three strokes behind the quartet at the top. First-round co-leader Kelly Kraft stumbled to a 73 and is tied for 12th in a pack of nine golfers that includes defending champion Jordan Spieth (68), Stewart Cink (70) and Kevin Tway (70), all four strokes back.
Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion who finished second in this event last year, had six birdies and two bogeys in his round while playing in the morning wave.
“It’s always tricky around here,” Simpson said. “Fairways are not easy to hit. But I kind of hung in there early. I didn’t get off to a great start ball-striking-wise so I had to make a lot of putts for par and it was a little squirrely here and there. I had a couple of good par putts and then made some good birdie putts at the end.”
The other leaders played in the afternoon wave; Kisner’s card included four birdies (two on each side) and a bogey on No. 17. Piercy managed six birdies — three in a row on Nos. 15, 16 and 17) and two bogeys.
“I only had one bogey each day and I played nicely coming down the fairway, which you got to do around here,” Kisner said. “I probably got the better part of the draw with the weather with the wind laying down this afternoon and picking up yesterday afternoon, so it’s been a nice two days for me. We got to keep making birdies and we’ll look up on Sunday and see if we have a chance.”
Spieth’s round of 68, which started on the back nine, began with bogeys on three of his first five holes but turned around with a birdie on the par-4 15th. He added four more birdies on the front nine — on Nos. 1, 2, 4 and 5 — and parred his final four holes.
“I played 5 under on my last, what is that, my last 13, 14 holes — that’s the round of the day,” Spieth said. “That’s what we needed to see. I’ve been striking the ball well. I hit the fairways, and if I missed the fairways they were good drives that were just off that gave me an opportunity to be on the green.
“I feel like — again, I keep reiterating — I feel like I’m playing well. I’m just either not catching the breaks or my short game is just a little off.”
First-round co-leader Derek Fathauer scraped around the course for a 74 and is in a group of four players in tied for 21st place, five shots off the lead. J.T. Poston, the third golfer from the top of Thursday’s leaderboard, ballooned to a 76 on Friday and is seven strokes back and tied for 32nd place.
Phil Mickelson struggled to a 75 and is tied for 46th eight shots back, with, among others, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Ryan Palmer.
Among those players who did not make the cut included John Huh, Jason Dufner, Rory Sabbatini of South Africa, James Hahn, Bryson DeChambeau, Aaron Baddeley of Australia, Pat Perez, Bryce Molder, Tim Herron, Lucas Glover, Jamie Sadlowski, Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela and Davis Love III.
The windy conditions and demanding course have made for a continued struggle for some of the world’s best golfers as only 24 of the 121 players who started in the field on Thursday are under par after 36 holes. The cut at 4-over 144 was the highest at this tournament since 1999.
“I’m very excited — I haven’t been in contention for so long,” said Lee, who lives in the Dallas suburb of Irving and plays out of the TPC Las Colinas, where the PGA Tour’s AT&T Byron Nelson has been held for the past 35 years.
“I felt like my game had just gone away for a while. I had a great finish last week at the home game, a fifth place at Byron Nelson. That gave me the great motivation to carry these great rounds over. I’m very looking forward to next couple days.”