Spi­eth surges into con­tention

Justin Thomas holds one shot lead at the John Deere Clas­sic


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 Bri­tish Open.

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 12un­der 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 col- lege 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 — his 26th straight round in the 60s at this course.

AP PHOTO Jor­dan Spi­eth watches his chip shot from near the gallery on the eighth hole dur­ing the sec­ond round of the John Deere Clas­sic golf tour­na­ment Fri­day in Sil­vis, Ill.

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