Irving, Texas — For Jordan Spieth, it only seems as if it has been a while since he topped a leaderboard. For Ben Crane, it actually had been.
Crane shot a 7-under 63 on Friday at the Byron Nelson to take the second-round lead at 12-under 128. He was one stroke ahead of a quartet of players that included Spieth, playing only his second tournament since squandering a five-stroke lead on the back nine when trying to win his second consecutive Masters.
Spieth was alone in the lead for a bit while playing in the morning, but after finishing his round of 65 was tied at the top with Brooks Koepka (64) and Bud Cauley (65). First-round co-leader Sergio Garcia also joined them after a 66 later in the day.
“It hasn’t been that long,” said Spieth, speaking before Crane’s afternoon round. “The Masters felt like it was quite a while ago and that’s why it almost feels like, that’s why I’m getting the questions, ‘Was it nice to have your name back on top?’ Well, I mean (it was) two tournaments ago.”
The last time Crane had led a tournament was going wire-to-wire to win at Memphis two years ago, the last of his five PGA Tour victories and his last top-10 finish. This is his 48th tournament since.
Crane, who turned 40 in March, took the lead after six birdies in an eight-hole stretch during the afternoon, including a 70-footer from a greenside bunker at the par-4 third hole, his 12th of the day, to get to 10 under for the tournament. He initially took the outright lead with a 3-foot birdie putt at the par-4 sixth.
“I’ve been struggling really for three years now, but intermittent bits of encouragement,” Crane said. “This has been one of those weeks where I feel like my game is really coming around.”
His only bogey came on his 17th hole Friday, the 463-yard eighth hole where his first two shots found the primary rough before his 16-foot par chance curled under the cup. Crane had two-putted from 50 feet on the previous hole to save par, and regained the outright lead with his final stroke of the day, a 14-foot birdie putt to match the best 36-hole score at this event.
“A great way to finish and just kind of good continuation of all the good stuff that was happening throughout the day,” Crane said.
Justin Hicks (Grosse Ile) and Tom Gillis (Lake Orion) both put up good rounds and made the cut. Hicks shot 65 and was at 5 under. Gillis put up a 67 and was 4 under.
After the Masters last month, Spieth didn’t play again until missing the cut last week at The Players Championship. The Dallas native and world’s No. 2-ranked player is now at TPC Four Seasons, where he played his first PGA Tour event as a 16-year-old amateur six years ago and finished in a tie for 16th, still the best of his five previous starts there.
Spieth has hit 33 of 36 greens so far, and the only one he missed Friday was No. 9, his final hole of the day. He pitched to 11 feet and saved par.
“I still got pretty frustrated at times because I would have a really good wedge number … that should be within 10 feet all day,” he said. “With the size of the greens, my misses are still holding the greens. I’ve had so many 40-footers out here I’ve managed to get in in two putts.”
Spieth made the turn after three consecutive birdies, two-putting from 45 feet at the par-5 16th and rolling in a 35-footer at the par-3 17th. A 30-foot birdie try at No. 2 curled just under the hole, and a 45-foot eagle chance at the par-5 7th hole stopped just short. His only bogey Friday was a three-putt at the par-3 13th, the same as in his opening 64.
Even without feeling like he’s playing his best golf, Spieth has had consecutive rounds in the mid-60s.
“Great sign,” Spieth said.
Perry keeps 1-shot advantage
Kenny Perry shot a 2-under 70 to maintain a one-stroke lead over Bernhard Langer and Billy Andrade in the Regions Tradition at Birmingham, Ala.
Perry had three birdies and a bogey to reach 10-under 134 at Greystone in the first of the year’s five PGA Tour Champions majors. The 2014 Regions Tradition winner has missed only one green in regulation in the first two days.
Conditions changed after his bogey-free opening 64. Tournament officials opted for a two-tee start because of weather concerns, with Perry and Langer starting on the 10th tee. The course received 0.14 inches of rain overnight and in the morning, forcing a 30-minute delay to start but escaping any heavy rain during play.
Ryu claims LPGA lead
So Yeon Ryu had six birdies in an eight-hole stretch and shot a 7-under 64 to take the second-round lead in the Kingsmill Championship at Williamsburg, Va.
Ranked 11th in the world but sixth in the race for the four spots on South Korea’s Olympic team, Ryu opened with a bogey on the 10th hole, then used the birdie run to make the turn in 5-under 30.
Fourth-ranked Stacy Lewis, No. 6 Amy Yang and first-round leader Mika Miyazato were a stroke back.
The LPGA Tour will shift to Ann Arbor next week for the Volvik Championship.
McIlroy draws within 1
Rory McIlroy achieved his first aim at the Irish Open: making the cut for the first time in four years.
The next target for the world No. 3 is clinching his first win of 2016. He’ll have to reel in Masters champ Danny Willett to do so.
McIlroy shot a 2-under 70 in the second round to finish the day one stroke behind Willett (71) and Marc Warren (66) at the K Club at Straffan, Ireland, heading into the weekend. Willett and Warren were at 8-under 136.