The leaders are about an hour away from starting their third rounds at the John Deere Classic. They could find a more difficult TPC Deere Run for moving day.
Among the early players there are no eye-popping scores or surges up the leaderboard. Michael Putnam and John Merrick each shot 67, while Will MacKenzie has a 5-under round going with five holes remaining. He’s up to 10 under for the tournament. Good stuff but nothing quite like Chez Reavie’s Friday 62 or the several 64s shot so far this week.
Asked yesterday to assess the greens, Steve Marino said they are a touch firmer and, consequently, more difficult. Saturday’s dry conditions with temperatures in the upper 80s should continue that trend.
“It’s making it play just a little bit more difficult,” Marino said Friday after his 66. “I mean, they’re not super-firm by any stretch, but you know, I’ve definitely played softer greens. I think they’re about perfect for scoring.”
Whether that’s a super-low score like we’ve seen in previous years of the John Deere Classic remains to be seen.
We’re currently two-thirds of the way through the 2011 PGA TOUR Regular Season, as the FedEx St. Jude Classic marks the final 11-week stretch of 33 weeks toward the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup.
Leader Robert Karlsson sits 98th in the FedExCup standings with just one top-10 in his first 10 starts of the season. That will obviously change today and could in a big way -- Karlsson could move as high as 27th with a victory this week.
Harrison Frazar, meanwhile, entered the week 178th in the FedExCup standings after coming off his first top-15 finish of the season at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, where he tied for 14th.
Frazar could potentially crack the top 70 in the standings with a win this week. He needs to finish solo fourth or better to move inside the top 125 in the standings.
Currently 145th in the standings, John Merrick could jump as
high as 32nd with a win. Merrick will likely need
to finish solo 14th to move inside the top 125.
Retief Goosen is 147th in the FedExCup standings with just one top-25 finish this season, but he too could make a big leap. Last year, Goosen accumulated 464 points in the final 11 weeks of the season, which included three top-10 finishes. Right now, he’s projected to move to 94th in the standings.
John Merrick, Cameron Tringale and Retief Goosen are among those making a move on moving day in Memphis, where they’re 3 under, 3 under and 4 under, respectively.
The bad news for them is that Robert Karlsson is also playing well, at 2 under through his first two holes and leading by three over Merrick. Tringale and Goosen, meanwhile, are seven shots back and among a cluster of players tied for fifth.
On the PGA TOUR in 2011, the second-round leader has gone on to win just five times in 23 stroke-play events on the season. Of course the last of those was just last week with Steve Stricker winning at Muirfield Village. And since the tournament moved to TPC Southwind in 1989, the second-round leader of the FedEx St. Jude Classic has gone on to win eight times, including in each of the last two years.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
John Merrick’s playing opportunities this season have been limited after finishing 2010 140th on the money list -- meaning he has full status on the Nationwide Tour and only partial status on the PGA TOUR.
As a result Merrick is making just his ninth start of the year on TOUR this week in Memphis, where he opened with a 4-under 66 to sit near the lead.
Given that Merrick doesn’t necessarily know what tournaments he’ll get in given his status, he has to take advantage of opportunities when he can.
“The weeks off that I've had, you need to get prepared to play because you're not out week after week after week playing,” he said. “You're at home. Back out. You're at home. You really need to be ready to play. That's one of my goals, to be ready to play when my chances came.”
They certainly came Thursday when he hit 11 of 14 fairways and 14 greens in regulation on his way to five birdies -- including four in a five-hole stretch at one point -- and just one bogey.
“I felt like it's been close for a long time,” the 29-year-old Merrick said. “Just a little bit more patient, little bit more confidence, and, you know, see what happens.”
It wasn’t all that long ago that Merrick was on his game. In 2009 he finished in the top 10 at the Masters and the PGA Championship. A year earlier, he tied for sixth at the U.S. Open.
He wasn’t able to build on that major success, however, and in 2010 had just one top-10 the entire season.
So what has the former UCLA standout been doing to prepare for his now an on-again, off-again schedule?
”Working with my coach, fine-tuning,” he said. “We're out here, always fine-tuning, and, you know, stroke here or there can go a long way.”
Especially in Merrick’s circumstances.
The best round of the day so far belongs to John Merrick, who just shot a 4-under 66 after closing with four birdies over his last five holes to move 34 spots up the leaderboard. Only one of those closing birdies came from inside 10 feet for Merrick, who had a 31 on the back nine here at Aronimink.
Vijay Singh, meanwhile, is still out on the course and is 4 under through his first 11 holes with birdies on four of his last six holes. That has Singh at 3 under for the week and up 32 spots on the leaderboard in a tie for sixth at the moment. -- Brian Wacker
John Merrick drained a 13-foot birdie putt on his final hole. Surely, many were hoping he would miss it.
Merrick moved to 2 under with his birdie, and so did the cut line. Here are the 15 players at 1 under who will not be playing the weekend, thanks in part to Merrick's clutch putt. -- Nick Zaccardi
Currently, 69 players are at 2 under or better. Another 15 are at 1 under, currently just inside the cut line. Of those 15, John Merrick is the only one left on the course.
If Merrick can birdie his final hole, the daunting 18th, he will move up to 2 under and move the cut line with him. If that happens, big names at 1 under such as Camilo Villegas, Vijay Singh, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and defending champ Henrik Stenson will not be playing the weekend.
Others at 1 over could have a say as the second round winds down, but for now it's all on Merrick. -- Nick Zaccardi