By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- This might be Jordan Spieth's first trip to East Lake, but the putting greens have a familiar feel to the 20-year-old.
That's because they are the same Champions Bermuda that he grew up playing at his home club in Dallas.
"Where it really helps me is I'm very committed to the line," Spieth said. "I'm not ever second-guessing what the putt's going to do."
Spieth needed just 27 putts in the second round of the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, where he's alone in third and five shots off the lead after a 3-under 67 on Friday.
Not that Spieth has been home much. He hasn't been there in about four months by his estimation after a busier-than-expected summer after he earned his PGA TOUR card.
"More than twice the amount I've ever played in a year," Spieth said about his schedule. "I think I'm just so still stoked about being at this tournament, what it means, and then the Presidents Cup is in two weeks, and that obviously keeps you going. Maybe after that I'll be a little tired, but right now I'm good."
Spieth's chances of winning the FedExCup aren't so go good -- especially with Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson ahead of him on the leaderboard.
If either of them wins this week, they would also win the FedExCup.
Not that Spieth is too worried. It has already been a dream season for the Texan.
"I don't expect to win the FedExCup at this point," he said. "But I can make a run at the TOUR Championship."
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM correspondent
ATLANTA -- Every player who has ever won a championship knows he received a good break at some juncture of the tournament. Maybe it was a bounce off a tree, or a birdie putt that just held its line and toppled into the cup.
Henrik Stenson may have received his good break in Friday’s second round.
He had birdied three of the first four holes as he stood on the sixth tee. The par 3 was playing over water at 197 yards. Stenson’s tee ball leaked to the right, hit off the bank and somehow stayed dry. It defied the laws of physics by not bouncing into the water.
Stenson chipped to within 12 feet, made the putt and escaped with par.
There are still 36 holes remaining, but Stenson has already received the kind of good fortune that sometimes leads to a championship.
Momentum: Everything seemed to be working in Tiger Woods’ favor in the second round. He was striking the ball well and making putts. Woods was 5 under for the day on the 14th hole when he tried to hit a shot from out of the pine straw. The ball did not get out of the rough. Woods followed that shot with a chip into the greenside bunker and finally carded a double bogey. In that five-minute stretch, you could feel every ounce of momentum leave Woods. The remainder of the round was ugly. He bogeyed the 16th and tripled the 17th after hitting into the water hazard. Did he get greedy with his second shot at the 14th or did he simply fail to execute a difficult shot? You can debate the answer, but Woods paid a terrible price.
Adjustment: Phil Mickelson made a tiny adjustment in his setup. A lesson with Butch Harmon clicked and Mickelson says, for the first time since the Open Championship, he feels confident in his game. Mickelson says he was able to forget about any technical adjustment and just feel his swing. He hit 14 greens but his greatest improvement came on the greens. Mickelson had 34 putts in the opening round and took 29 strokes on the green in the second round. He made 101 feet of putts on Friday compared with just 43 feet on Thursday. Mickelson seemed very enthusiastic about his game headed into the weekend.
Comfortable: For everything Jordan Spieth has accomplished this year, he has not putted well on a consistent basis. The Texan is ranked 78th in strokes gained-putting this year. That’s why his statement following a second round 67 was so important. "For the first time this year I feel comfortable over the putter,” Spieth said. He had 27 strokes in the second round and is ranked second in strokes gained-putting this week.
Numbers: Every metric seems to work in Henrik Stenson’s favor through the first two rounds. He leads the tournament in hitting fairways and greens. He is second in putts per green and fourth in strokes gained-putting. Stenson is sixth in proximity to the cup and has saved par on three of five occasions when missing a green. It is not a fluke that Stenson leads the tournament. He has absolutely played the best golf.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- It took 27 holes, but Phil Mickelson finally found some rhythm Friday at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
It also helped that he made a couple of long birdie putts -- first from 19 feet on the par-4 13th, followed by a 33-footer on the next hole.
Mickelson added one more and shot a 3-under 67 to get to 2 under entering the weekend at East Lake.
"I let a number of shots go on the first 27 holes," he said. "Then it clicked right back in. Just a slight setup adjustment, and I started to feel really good with it.
"Since the British Open, this is the best I've felt with my golf swing, the best I've felt with a putter."
Entering the week, Mickelson was sixth in FedExCup points, meaning he'd need at least a little help to win the FedExCup even if he were to win the tournament.
He might have left himself too far back of leader Henrik Stenson, who is 10 under, but he said he expects to play well on the weekend.
"I was able to stop worrying about mechanics and start feeling the shots, feeling the swing, hitting shots again," Mickelson said. "That's why I'm looking forward to the next 36. I know I'm far back, but I think I'm going to make a pretty good run."
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- A long season apparently caught up to Tiger Woods on Friday at East Lake.
After playing his first 13 holes in 5 under, Woods stumbled to the finish, playing his last five holes in 6 over. He shot 71 and is thre strokes out of last place in the 30-man finale.
"I put everything I had into that start and didn't have much at the end," said Woods, who has five wins in 15 starts on the PGA TOUR this season and entered the week atop the FedExCup standings. "Just ran out of gas."
It was a startling revelation for the game's fittest player, whose shocking tumble started with a double bogey on the 14th hole after over-hooking his tee shot and struggling to escape the trees.
Two holes later, he failed to save par from a greenside bunker, coming up nearly 20 feet short on his pitch from the sand.
Things went from bad to worse on the 17th, where Woods pulled his tee shot into the water before leaving a chip from the front of the green short of the putting surface and eventually making a triple-bogey 7.
"My legs were just tired," Woods said. "I didn't rotate through the ball (on 17), and I turned it over. Same thing I did over on what was it, 14? Same shot.
"It's been just a long, long grind. We play a lot of golf from the British Open on."
Early in the round, Woods played his best golf in recent weeks, rolling in a 10-footer for birdie on the par-4 third before adding two more on Nos. 8 and 9. Said Woods, "It was finally nice to make a birdie in ‑‑ what was that, 21 holes?"
On the par-4 12th, he stuck another approach shot close to set up a 4-foot birdie putt before following that with a 15-footer for birdie on the next hole to get within four of the lead.
It was a stark contrast from a day earlier when Woods failed to make a birdie in a round for just the seventh time in his career and the first time since the opening round of the 2010 U.S. Open.
Friday, Woods adjusted to the speed of the greens and appeared well on his way to entering the weekend in contention for a third TOUR Championship and third FedExCup.
Instead, he hit the wall, going from the first page of the leaderboard to near the bottom of it in about an hour. It was the first time Woods posted consecutive rounds over par at East Lake since 2003.
"We're all looking forward to that week off," said Woods, referring to next week's break before the Presidents Cup. "Everyone out here has got some knick‑knack injuries, and guys are taped up and banged up a little bit."
Not that Woods is throwing in the towel just yet.
"I'm still in contention," he said. "There's 36 holes. This is not a sprint. It's a marathon. You've got to keep plugging around."
ATLANTA -- It took 21 holes, but Tiger Woods' birdie drought at East Lake is over.
Woods was the only player not to make a birdie here in the opening round. It was also just the seventh time in his career and first since the first round of the 2010 U.S. Open that he went an entire round without one.
Friday, that streak finally came to an end with a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 third hole. Woods, who came into the week first in the FedExCup standings, has since added two more birdies, including on the ninth hole above to make the turn in 3 under and get back to even par for the week.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- Considering what his goal was as the start of the year -- just to secure a PGA TOUR card for next season -- and where he came from -- zero status on any tour -- Jordan Spieth could be just happy to be here.
Finishing in the top 30 in the FedExCup standings has its priveleges: In Spieth's case guaranteed spots in the U.S. Open and British Open, and a guaranteed paycheck.
But Spieth doesn't play for the paychecks or moral victories.
"I've said it since I was 16 back in Dallas," he said. "You're in a tournament, if you're not playing to win, what are you playing for?"
This week, a lot.
Spieth, 13th in the FedExCup standings coming into the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, opened with a 2-under 68 and is just four strokes off the lead in his first trip to East Lake.
Only three players have ever won in their first appearance here. Who's to say the 20-year-old can't be the fourth?
He made a half-dozen birdies in the opening round, most of them the result of some impressive ball-striking.
All that held him back were four bogeys, including a couple of sloppy ones on the first and ninth holes.
"I'd like to be a little smarter into the greens," he said. "Part of it was a few tee balls that were not in the right position, but overall I had good looks into the greens."
And the rest of us are getting a good look at the future of American golf.
Eight times this season Spieth has finished in the top 10 with half of those finishes in the top 5, including a playoff win.
In the Playoffs, he has yet to finish outside the top 20, which included a fourth-place at the Deutsche Bank Championship, where he shot a final-round 62.
He'll also play in his first Presidents Cup in two weeks after being picked by captain Fred Couples.
"What (the experience) did is I felt how much pressure there was when competing on Sunday," Speith said of the experience. "I also saw that I was able to make birdies when I felt the pressure.
"It was the first step in the direction where maybe a shorter path to get on TOUR than I had envisioned."
And it's only the beginning.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- Henrik Stenson leads the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola after the first round at East Lake. Consequently, he's also in position to win the FedExCup.
At No. 2 in the FedExCup standings coming into the week, the formula for Stenson is simple: Win the tournament and he wins the FedExCup. Here's a look at who did what on Thursday in terms of the FedExCup.
TOP FIVE: Stenson and Adam Scott came into the week second and third, respectively, in points, meaning that if either won here, they would also win the FedExCup. After a 65 Thursday that featured six birdies in a seven-hole stretch and a closing 29, Scott remains right on Stenson's heels. No. 1 Tiger Woods, on the other hand, is near the bottom of the leaderboard after a 3-over 73 that didn't feature a single birdie. It was the first time Woods went an entire round without a birdie since the opening round of the 2010 U.S. Open. He's now projected to fall to third in the FedExCup standings. Meanwhile, Zach Johnson, who won last week and came in fourth in points, shot 69 and is projected to fall to fifth. The current No. 5, Matt Kuchar, is projected to fall to sixth after a 69.
BIGGEST MOVERS: Billy Horschel entered the week 22nd in the FedExCup standings, but after a 66 is within two of the lead and now projected to move up to 10th. Even if he were to win, though, he needs a lot of help to win the FedExCup. Roberto Castro is a stroke behind Horschel and projected to move from 24th to 13th. Like Horschel, he needs a ton of help even if he wins the tournament.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
ATLANTA -- Out of frustration came opportunity for Adam Scott, and he ran with it.
After missing a 6-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole Thursday at East Lake, Scott hit "two good shots" on the par-4 10th and rolled in a 12-footer for birdie and calmed down.
"I just went and played and played the way I felt I could," he said. "I feel like my games in good shape, and it was nice to kind of open up a little bit on the back nine and take advantage of some good shots.
The Aussie birdied six of his first seven holes on the back nine and shot a 5-under 65, leaving him one shot off the lead after Henrik Stenson after the first round of the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
"If a birdie can't calm you down, you're going to have to look for another thing to do for a living," Scott said. "It was really just that."
Playing well in the state of Georgia is becoming second nature to Scott. Earlier this year, he won his first major a couple of hours southeast of here when he became the first Australian to win the Masters.
Now he's in position to add to it.
With already one Playoffs victory just last month at The Barclays, Scott arrived at East Lake third in the FedExCup standings. Should he win here, he would also take home the FedExCup and a $10 million bonus.
A victory might also net him Player of the Year honors.
"As I've been kind of on the periphery of the discussion of that for the last few weeks, it's been a motivating factor for sure," he said. "With such deep talent, if that was the vote from the other guys out here, I think that's a real achievement in your career.
"It's an opportunity to might not come along too often. I'm going to be working hard to try and make my case for it for sure."
He made a strong one Thursday.
After missing the green with a wedge on three separate occasions on the front nine, Scott hit a nice approach on the 459-yard 10th.
On the par-3 11th, he again set himself up for birdie by hitting his tee shot to 10 feet.
One hole later, he hit what he called his best shot of the day, a wedge to inside 2 feet on the 383-yard par 4.
"That was a nice shot because it was in between yardage," Scott said. "I liked that one because my wedge play is the one thing I still feel I have most room for improvement."
There was little Scott could have improved on in the opening round.
"I got a lot of confidence out of playing nine holes like that," he continued. "I've just got to keep my focus. That's really all I can think it was. Trust that all the work I've done is just going to hold up for a few days."
If it does, he'll come away with two trophies.
ATLANTA -- Despite tendonitis in his left wrist, Henrik Stenson made seven birdies and just one bogey en route to a 64 and a one-shot lead Thursday at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
Adam Scott is alone in second, while Billy Horschel and Steve Stricker are another stroke back at 4 under.
Playing at East Lake for the first time, Stenson was near-flawless on his opening nine, making four straight birdies at one point before going out in 30.
The Swede missed just three greens in regulation and took only 27 putts, tied for the fewest in the 30-man field.
Meanwhile, it was a tale of two nines for Scott.
He struggled on East Lake's front side, making the turn in 1 over before a run of six birdies over his first seven holes on the back to close in 29.
Either player would win the FedExCup with a win here this week.
So would Tiger Woods, but he has a long way to go after a 73 that left him in second-to-last place. Only Jason Dufner played worse with a 74.
Woods struggled mightily with his putter, taking 34 putts and was the only player in the field without a birdie on his scorecard. It marked just the seventh time in Woods' career that has happened and the first since the opening round of the 2010 U.S. Open.
As a result, Woods, who teed off in Thursday's final pairing, will be first off with Dufner on Friday as players will be re-paired after each round in the season finale.
ATLANTA -- Billy Horschel's first TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola couldn't have gotten off to much better of a start.
The 26-year-old made five birdies and just one bogey Thursday at East Lake, where he opened with a 66 for the early clubhouse lead.
Horschel hit every green in regulation but one -- the par-4 seventh -- and it was his third 66 in his last eight rounds, including at last week's BMW Championship, where he tied for 18th.
The last player to win here in his first trip to East Lake was Bill Haas in 2011. He also won the FedExCup that year.
Horschel would need a number of scenarios to play out for him to win the FedExCup but is in good position so far.