Jordan Spieth leads Hero by two with a chip and a putt to go

Darkness stopped play at the Hero World Challenge with two players still on the course at the Isleworth Golf and Country Club in Orlando, Steve Sticker in the next to last group and Jordan Spieth in the last group just short of the 18th green with a tricky chip shot.

You’d think it wouldn’t be a problem getting a field of 18 players finished before dark, but a rain delay of an hour and sixteen minutes was all it took. In the meantime there were some truly spectacular rounds led by Patrick Reed and Justin Rose.

Spieth has a 2-shot lead over Henrik Stenson. If he makes that par on 18, his 5-under 67 would be pretty impressive given that he’d come in from Australia at the beginning of the week and shoots 66 to take a 1-shot lead. All too often, a round like that gets buried by a round around par the second day. Not the case here. He’s probably not going to make his chip shot in the morning, so par would be good…and give him the satisfaction of building on his impressive start. 

The top of the leaderboard looks like this:

  • Jordan Spieth – 11-under through 17
  • Henrik Stenson – 9-under
  • Patrick Reed – 8-under
  • Justin Rose – 8-under

Stenson shot 67 the first day and 68 on Friday.

“Yeah, I didn’t finish that round in a great way.  Yeah, happy to be done and not have to come out early tomorrow.”

“It was never going to be early, early, but at least not have to come out a couple hours early to play one hole or so.”

“So pleased to get it finished.  Had a pretty good round going, but a stumble there coming in.  Two costly bogeys on 15, 16, and then missed from short range on 17, a putt that I thought was going to go in.”

Followed by a comment that demonstrated how centered Tour players have to be. I shot what I shot, but there’s still more to come and I’m still in it:

“Yeah, anyway, so you’re not winning anything on a Friday.  We’re still at the races.”

I thought Stenson’s comments on just how dark it was when he finished were interesting. I believe him that he had a high interest in getting finished, but found it interesting that he would risk dropping shots in the dark to do it:

“Everybody’s got that choice if you don’t see.  And then the referees will definitely agree with you at this point.  It’s just a matter of if you want to finish or not.”

“The tricky part for the viewers when they look on the television it looks like they’re playing in daylight because you open the lens that wide and let whatever light there is in, but you can’t really see much [on the ground].”

“I finished about 10, 12 minutes ago, and I hardly saw the hole on my putt.”

Reed was paired with Tiger Woods, his hero growing up, and had a great round, a 9-under 63. Where he ended didn’t quite capture how good it was at one point. He shot 7-under 29 on the front and started thinking about destiny after following that with a birdie on 10:

“Oh, yeah.  I was thinking in the 50s after 10 for sure, and then I stepped up on 11 and hit a kind of little thin block 6‑iron out to the right and didn’t even know if it was going to cover.”

“Luckily it got on the green.  It was just one of those things once I got done with 11, I just put one foot in front of the other and continued to do what I was trying to do on the front nine, shot by shot. [No more dreaming of 59. He discovered right away that that can be hazardous to your wealth and got back to work.]”

It was also a banner day in that it was the first time he played a competitive round with Tiger. He came away sounding like anybody else who got a chance to play with his hero:

“Yeah, you know, I never played with Tiger before besides in a practice rounds at the British.  It was good to finally be able to play with him, especially in competition.”

“It was a lot of fun.  We had a good time.  I felt like we enjoyed ourselves out there, and luckily I played well.”

While Reed had the low round of the day at 9-under, Justin Rose definitely had the most birdies, 11. He birdied 1 and 3 and then stumbled on 4 and 5 with a bogey and double bogey. Good thing he’s experience enough not to capitulate just because he went from 2-under to 1-over in two holes. Because from there, he went on to make 9 birdies to shoot 8-under 64.

“But, you know, 11 birdies is the highlight of the day.  Any time you make 11 birdies you’ve done a lot of things well.  I hit a lot of balls really close to the flag today.  I made a few 2‑, 3‑footers, you know, cheap birdies.  I obviously made a couple 10‑, 12‑footers to keep the round going.”

“Really felt like I hit the ball close today, which is how I managed to get around pretty low.”

Tiger almost had a banner day for himself too. His goal was to at least get back to par after opening with Thursday’s 5-over 77. He was right on track when the rains came, he was 4-under with just 18 to play.

When play resumed, he played a long, freewheeling drive into the fairway. But when he got to the ball, he discovered that it had mud on it. As he watched his second shot take flight, he began laughing derisively: his sleek golf ball had turned into a knuckle ball.

It went long left and led to yet another chunked pitch shot, a product of grainy lies and rusty technique. It appears that his timing between his arms and body is off. He made a double bogey.

“Well, it’s not very good.  That’s also part of going through the swing changes.  Chip shot is a smaller version, so this is a different pattern than I have been using and it’s showing up.
It’s not quite ready yet.  Just going to take more time, more practice.”

“It’s a different motion, a different pattern.  You know, it goes all the way from the putting stroke all the way to the driver.  They’re the same motion, just obviously one is shorter and one is longer”

And once again, the subject of his new coach, Chris Como, came up. He explained how they communicate: not so much by swing positions, but rather what the swing feels like:

“Well, we’re both very competitive people, and that’s always fun to work with somebody who is like that.  He’s very easygoing; extremely analytical.”

“But, you know, one of the things that he’s really tried to — not really convince me, but we’ve talked a lot about it — are feels.  Feel in my hands and what do I feel as I’m hitting certain shots. It’s nice to talk with someone who is like that.”

And then he explained just how driven and analytical Como is:

“I think he’s also competitive in a sense that he’ll continue to try to think about [swing issues that come up in their sessions] throughout the night and try find a solution and answer.”

“There is a reason why, and he always wants to know why.  To him it’s not acceptable to not have an answer.  He always wants to find that answer of why something is doing what.”

“One of the reasons why he researches as much as he does, is he always wants to know why.”

Tiger (+3) and FedExCup winner, Billy Horschel (+1) are the only two players over par. They’ll be going off in the first group when play resumes. The Golf Channel has two and a half hours of it starting at noon (Eastern).

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