Mer­ritt’s 61 trumps Masters cham­pion Spi­eth’s 62 at RBC Her­itage


Lit­tle-known Troy Mer­ritt one-upped the Masters cham­pion Jor­dan Spi­eth at the RBC Her­itage.

Mer­ritt shot a 10-un­der 61 on Fri­day to tie the course record at Har­bour Town Golf Links only a few hours af­ter Spi­eth wowed the gallery with a bounce-back 62 to match his low­est PGA Tour round.

Mer­ritt tied David Frost’s tour­na­ment mark set in 1994 and topped the leader­board at 12-un­der 130, a stroke off the 36-hole event record shared by Jack Nick­laus and Phil Mick­el­son.

Mer­ritt, who opened with a 69 on Thurs­day, saw Spi­eth’s score in the morn­ing and knew the op­por­tu­nity was there to go low.

Spi­eth looked like the head­liner Fri­day, fol­low­ing a 74 on Thurs­day with the 62 — which tied his ca­reer low set at the Deutsche Bank Cham­pi­onship in 2013.

The 21-year-old Texan has been on a ma­jor role the past month, win­ning the Valspar Cham­pi­onship and fin­ish­ing sec­ond in San An­to­nio and Hous­ton be­fore cap­tur­ing his first ma­jor ti­tle at Au­gusta Na­tional last week.

Spi­eth birdied his fi­nal two holes at Har­bour Town, elec­tri­fy­ing the crowds al­ready there to cheer him, to shoot the low­est tour­na­ment round in 10 years — un­til Mer­ritt did him one bet­ter.

Mer­ritt had nine birdies over his fi­nal 10 holes to surge on top and send Spi­eth six shots be­hind on a day of low, low scor­ing. Mer­ritt ended his round with four straight birdies, in­clud­ing a 5-footer on the sig­na­ture light­house hole, No. 18, to tie the course record.

Mer­ritt was four shots ahead of Matt Kuchar and John Mer­rick. Kuchar had a 66, and Mer­rick shot 65.

Past RBC Her­itage win­ners and U.S. Open cham­pi­ons Graeme McDow­ell and Jim Furyk were 7 un­der along with Kevin Kis­ner. Furyk had a 64, Kis­ner shot 67, and McDow­ell 69.

Spi­eth was a stroke back at 6 un­der, tied for sev­enth in a pack that in­cluded for­mer Bri­tish Open win­ner Louis Oosthuizen, who shot a 67.

Har­bour Town’s rarely shown such lit­tle bite as low scores were ev­ery­where. Brandt Snedeker, Bryce Molder and Rus­sell Knox had 64s like Furyk. Kevin Streel­man, Blake Adams, Brian Har­man and John Peter­son joined Mer­rick with 65s.

In all, 62 play­ers, in­clud­ing 11 who didn’t make the cut, shot sub-70 rounds. The sec­ond-round scor­ing av­er­age of 69.641 was the sec­ond low­est ever in tour­na­ment his­tory, only sur­passed by the 2000 third round (69.162).

Spi­eth had the low­est round since Peter Lonard opened the 2005 event with a 62 on the way to cap­tur­ing the ti­tle. It was a distinc­tion that lasted just a few hours. Still, Spi­eth showed the en­ergy and skill miss­ing in Thurs­day’s strug­gles.

Spi­eth said he cor­rected his ball po­si­tion and cured the slice that kept him off tar­get Thurs­day.

Most had un­der­stand­ably fig­ured a highly fa­tigued Spi­eth wasn’t long for the RBC Her­itage. Along with a gru­el­ing week of grind­ing for a green jacket, Spi­eth spent two fre­netic days in New York on an in­ter­view and ap­pear­ance tour.

He ar­rived Tues­day night and took the course yes­ter­day with­out play­ing a hole of prac­tice. But Spi­eth said he was mo­ti­vated to im­prove on his poor first-round show­ing.

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