The cream inevitably rose toward the top of The Barclays leader board in the second round Friday at Bethpage Black to set up what promises to be a weekend survival test. First-round co-leader Patrick Reed started fast and stretched his lead to three shots before giving one back with an ill-conceived bogey at No. 18 for a 68 to settle at 8-under-par 134.
Rickie Fowler, the most consistent player in the field with only one bogey, began his round on the brutal back nine and made 11 straight pars on his way to a 69 that left him tied for second with Emiliano Grillo at 6 under. Ryan Moore reached the lead by himself in the morning wave but a couple of back-nine bogeys left him alone in fourth at 5 under.
World No. 1 Jason Day was hotter than anybody with five birdies on the first seven holes of the front nine before struggling home with a 1-under 70 for a fifth-place tie at 4 under. Defending FedExCup champion Jordan Spieth recovered from a double bogey on the 10th, his opening hole, to shoot 67 and join the group at 4 under, and Rory McIlroy faltered with bogeys at the 15th and 16th holes on his way to a 69 that left him in the group at 2-under 140.
Articulating the hard lesson demanded by the 7,468-yard Black Course, Fowler said, “It’s a long golf course, and it kind of tempts you to try and push a little bit . . . You can’t push. You can’t try and step on the gas at any time really. You have to hit fairways. You can’t try and hit the ball harder than you should. You’ve just got to stick to the game plan.”
Reed played with beautifully controlled aggression for 36 holes, but coming off a birdie at the par-3 17th that gave him a three-shot cushion, he was torn between bombing a driver off the 18th tee to within 100 yards of the green and laying up about 60 yards farther back. He hit driver into a fairway bunker and made bogey.
“Stupid decision,” said Reed, who acknowledged another mental mistake at the par-3 eighth that led to bogey. “Two mental mistakes where I went away from my game plan . . . cost me two shots.”
No one was immune to temptation. After his five early birdies, Day was tied for the lead at 8 under with Reed, who was in the group ahead of him.
“I had it going great, and I felt, ‘What’s the course record?’ ” Day said. “Obviously, it can turn on you pretty quick, especially if you’re out of position.”
Day was 4 over par on his next three holes, including a double bogey at the par-4 ninth and had to fight to get to the clubhouse within striking distance of the lead. “I’m currently four back,” Day said. “Just got to try to get it under par and slowly chip away at it.”
That’s what Spieth did after starting his round with a double bogey at the 502-yard par-4 10th. At the time, he was 2 over par and in danger of missing the cut, but he got going with a birdie at No. 18 and shot 31 on the front nine, including an eagle at the par-5 fourth.
Admitting he was angry after his opening hole, Speith said caddie Michael Greller talked him off the ledge. “On No. 17, I started smiling going to No. 18, and that was the difference-maker,” Spieth said. “After the eagle, I had a spring in my step and felt I was starting a new tournament.”
It’s only going to get tougher on the weekend when the challenge will be to stick to the game plan and not give in to the temptations of Bethpage Black.