As the ball finished its unlikely 41-foot, 6-inch journey into the hole, Jordan Spieth gave a fist pump and was engulfed in cheers. Among the many shouts that followed was one that said, “Are you kidding me?” No, this was no joke. Spieth had just made his sixth birdie in seven holes and put a huge charge into the Northern Trust.
The young golfer who is arguably the sport’s biggest current star flashed a Sunday evening performance on Friday afternoon at Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury. He jolted the tournament with five birdies in a row to start the back nine, then, after a bogey, made the long putt on the par-4 16th hole.
That helped him reach 6 under through two rounds, tied for first with Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Jhonattan Vegas. They are all one shot ahead of Matt Kuchar, who shot 6-under-par 64, and Bubba Watson to flesh out an All-Star leaderboard.
“That’s what happens in the playoffs,” Spieth, 24, said after finishing with two pars for a 65. “You get players who are playing well and it’s no surprise those guys are at the top.”
Spieth, playing in the latter half of the draw, produced a buzz that no one else did yesterday. The first event of this year’s FedEx Cup playoffs and the first-ever PGA Tour tournament at Glen Oaks had been solid but quiet until he began his roll with a birdie on No. 10.
He followed with another and another. “I’m standing on the tee on 13, I’m saying, ‘I’ve got two birdie holes here if I stay focused on my target.’ That’s what I did,” the three-time major champion and reigning British Open winner said. “The putter has been streaky for me this summer, which is better than ‘not so great’ which it was before that. So I’ve been able to use one or two good putts to make me feel like I’m putting awesome.”
The birdie streak ended on the par-3 15th, when he hit too aggressively toward what he called a “sucker pin.” He considered himself lucky to have made 4. It appeared that his round was headed further south when he pushed his tee shot on 16 into the thick right rough. All of the players have been saying that the Glen Oaks rough is to be avoided at all costs. Spieth chopped his ball out, onto the front part of the green. He would have been happy with a par.
But he made birdie and, combined with pars out of bunkers on both 17 and 18, was on his way to an intriguing weekend.
If it is anything like Friday, the air will be filled with cheers — and chants of “Kooooch.” Kuchar actually had an even better back nine than Spieth did, 29 to 30. And he got momentum with birdies on 8 and 9, fueling a stretch of six birdies in seven holes.
He recalled walking off the 14th green and saying to his two playing companions, “God, if I had just made that putt on No. 12, it would be seven birdies in a row.” Later, he added, “Typically you don’t want to jinx yourself and you don’t want to talk about a streak while it is happening. It was fun to have this cross my mind, like, ‘Matt, you shouldn’t be talking about a streak.’ ”
There had been a lot of energy in the morning threesome of Fowler (who shot 66), Johnson (69) and Jon Rahm (68 to finish at 4 under). “It’s a lot more fun,” Fowler said, “seeing good golf than bad golf. It’s a lot easier to follow a good shot than a bad shot.”