Friday’s roundup: Berger takes 3-shot lead at St. Jude
Memphis, Tenn. — Daniel Berger shot a season-best 6-under 64 on Friday to take a three-stroke lead in the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tennessee.
Berger had six birdies in his bogey-free morning round to reach 9-under 131 at TPC Southwind, and nobody caught him atop the leaderboard. Berger has started well, despite breaking in a new driver and 3-wood after his old clubs finally cracked last week from age.
“It was a pretty easy adjustment,” Berger said. “The TaylorMade guys have been great and they found me a quick replacement, and I just got up there and started whacking it and right down the middle. I think that’s all you can ask for when you get a new driver in your hands.”
Tom Hoge, part of a three-way tie for the lead after the first round, was second after a 69. He birdied the final two holes in the next to last group.
Dustin Johnson, the 2012 champion, had a chance to catch Berger until dropping three strokes on the final two holes. Johnson finished with a 69 after wiping out four birdies and an eagle with three bogeys and a double bogey on No. 18 with what he called bad swings at the end.
“You’re going to make some bogies out here,” Johnson said. “But from the fairway you shouldn’t be making bogies. You know, just need to get a little bit better tomorrow … but I feel like I’m driving it really well and swinging my irons really good. Got to get rid of the couple misses.”
That finish left Johnson tied with Phil Mickelson (65) and Brooks Koepka (65) at 5 under. Shawn Stefani, one of the first-round leaders, shot a 71 and was tied with eight others at 4 under, including Brian Gay (70).
Mickelson, winless since the 2013 British Open, matched his low round this year with six birdies and one bogey. He’s here fine-tuning his game for the U.S. Open next week, the one major that has eluded him in his career.
“I’m very excited that I’m in contention, that I have a good opportunity heading into the weekend,” Mickelson said. “I get to feel the pressure and excitement of having a chance to win, especially a week before the U.S. Open.”
Brian Stuard (73, Jackson) and Justin Hicks (71, Grosse Ile) were each at even-par 140. Tom Gillis (Lake Orion) shot 72 and failed to make the cut at 2 over.
Mickelson had his putter working with his first birdie on No. 2, the shortest on a putt of 6 feet, and he rolled in a 10-footer on No. 6. The highlight of his round came on a 31-foot birdie putt on the par-3 11th on the island green.
“It’s been a great, great year with the putter,” Mickelson said. “My critical putts from 10 feet and in are really the putts that you need to make to keep rounds going, to get up into contention. Those are the ones that can go either way, and I’ve made a lot of them this year. So, that gives me a lot of confidence heading into the treacherous greens at Oakmont.”
Seung-yul Noh, the other first-round leader, shot a 72. Defending champion Fabian Gomez (2 over) missed the cut at 1 over.
Berger’s father is the director of men’s tennis for the USTA and was head coach of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. Berger chose golf over tennis and spent only two years at Florida State before turning pro in 2013. Now 23, the Florida native already has three top 10s this season after having six last season with this event his 15th cut made in 18 events.
He rolled in a 15-footer for birdie on No. 3, then birdied the par-3 No. 8 after hitting his tee shot from 167 yards to 4 feet. On the par-4 ninth, Berger put his second shot within 9 feet for birdie, and he birdied his third straight hole on No. 10 with a 10-footer.
He took the lead to himself with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 15 and 16. Berger hit his approach over the green at the par-5 16th but rolled in a 5-footer to become the first to go 9 under.
“Just excited to see what happens this weekend and get ready for next week,” said Berger, who will be playing at Oakmont next week.
Henderson, Lee share Women’s PGA lead
Brooke Henderson and Mirim Lee withstood a wild weather day to share the lead at 2 under halfway through the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Playing in the afternoon, Henderson and Lee fought through a mix of heavy rain, wind and a significant drop in the temperature at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Washington. After six straight pars, Henderson birdied the par-3 17th, but the 18-year-old Canadian bogeyed the 18th for a 2-over 73 that dropped her back into a tie with Lee.
Lee started on the back nine and surged when she got to the front, making three birdies before dropping a shot late. The South Korean player shot a 69.
Top-ranked Lydia Ko was a stroke back along with Gerina Piller and Brittany Lincicome. Ko scrambled to a 70 in her bid to win her third straight major. Piller had a 69, and Lincicome shot 70.
Three-time defending champion Inbee Park apparently missed the cut. A day after wrapping up an LPGA Hall of Fame spot, the South Korean star shot an 8-over 79 to drop to 9 over.
The top 70 plus and ties will make the cut for the final two rounds.
No player was able to make a charge in the morning, the lowest round coming from Catriona Matthew who shot 67 and stood at 1 over for the tournament. She was the only player in the morning session to post a round in the 60s.
Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn, winner of her last three tournaments, shot 75 and was 4 over.
Langer closes on Jobe
Two-time defending champion Bernhard Langer pulled within a stroke of leader Brandt Jobe on Friday in the Constellation Senior Players Championship.
Langer shot a 2-under 68 at windy Philadelphia Cricket Club in the third of the PGA Tour Champions’ five major championships. Jobe topped the leaderboard at 2 under after his second straight 69.
Scott Dunlap had a 69 to match Langer at 1 under.
First-round leader Jay Don Blake (72) was even par with Wes Short Jr. (69) and Bart Bryant (71). Tom Byrum had a 67, the best score of the week, to join Woody Austin (70) at 1 over.
Vijay Singh followed his opening 69 with a 74 to drop to 3 over.
John Daly had his second straight 76. He’s playing his fifth event since turning 50 in late April.
U.S. tied in Curtis Cup
Bailey Tardy and Monica Vaughn teamed to win two matches to help the United States tie Britain and Ireland, 3-3, after the first day of the Curtis Cup amateur matches in Dublin.
Tardy and Vaughn beat Meghan MacLaren of England and Maria Dunne of Ireland, 1 up, in the morning foursomes matches to pull the U.S. to 2-1 at Dun Laoghaire. In the afternoon fourball session, Tardy and Vaughn topped MacLaren and fellow English player Alice Hewson, 2 and 1.
U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Hannah O’Sullivan and Mariel Galdiano also won a four-ball match for the United States, beating Northern Ireland’s Olivia Mehaffey and England’s Charlotte Thomas, 1 up.