EDISON, N.J. - As the No. 1 player in the world, Jordan Spieth realized that additional scrutiny was heading his way this week. He also knew by the end of the round that will not be his problem next week. "Yeah, yeah, plenty of people made me aware of it," he said Friday after having missed the cut at The Barclays and lost his top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking.
He was no match for Bubba Watson, one of his fellow golfers in the marquee group, who made birdie on the last hole and finished the second round at 7-under-par, with a one-stroke lead. Watson had an eventful round of 2-under-par 68 and acknowledged how difficult he finds Plainfield Country Club and its sloped greens. "I play the game of golf because it's challenging and fun," he said. "I want to hit shots. I want to be creative. I want to pull off shots that I don't practice."
Watson will have two more days to have a run at that, something he did not do the last time this tournament was here. He missed the cut at Plainfield in 2011. "No matter what happens this week, I'm ahead of the game," he said.
The same cannot be said for Spieth, who drew the most attention as a two-time major winner this year with a brief stay at the top. By missing the cut, he fell behind Rory McIlroy, who is sitting out this first of four stages in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs. Despite a hectic summer and busy week, Spieth never considered taking the week off. "I like to play and I'll keep on playing," he said after he shot 73.
His score included a penalty stroke tacked on after his round for having inadvertently stepped on his ball on the 12th hole. He said it was a matter of miscommunication with a rules official. The bottom line was that it was just one of those weeks. On Thursday, his driving was good and his wedges were poor. On Friday, he sprayed his tee shots.
"Billy Horschel won the FedEx Cup after missing the cut in the first event last year and I'm in better position than he was at the time," he said. "So why can't I do it, you know?
"Tough week. I'm definitely searching for answers. I don't know exactly what I'm going to do from here . . . but I have some time to figure it out."
Watson, playing with Spieth and Jason Day (4 under), figured things out on the fly. His tee shot on No. 9 bounced off a hospitality tent yet he still made par. He received a warning for slow play on No. 16 but finished strong.
He holds a one-shot lead over four golfers, including Tony Finau, known for having been a fire-knife dancer as a youth. "I have cuts all over my forearms and burn marks," he said. "It's not safe for me to do now that I play golf, but I enjoy doing it."