Friday's golf: Michael Thompson, Richy Werenski tied for lead at 3M Open
Blaine, Minn. — Michael Thompson and Richy Werenski topped the 3M Open leaderboard going onto the weekend, Tony Finau and Talor Gooch climbed within a stroke and stars Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood struggled again Friday.
In warmer and windier conditions on the quiet, spectator-free TPC Twin Cities course, the scores crept up after Werenski led the first-round pack with an 8-under 63. The 24-year-old, who’s winless on the PGA Tour, followed up with a 67. Thompson caught him with a 66.
Koepka, at the other end of the board, was on the whos-who list of players to miss the cut. Koepka, a four-time major champion, shot a 71 to finish at 1 under, pulling a birdie putt attempt wide right on the 18th that would have extended his stay in Minnesota.
Fleetwood, playing in his first event since the virus outbreak shut down the sport more than four months ago, posted a 72 to finish at 1 over. Paul Casey had a second consecutive 72. Dustin Johnson withdrew after a back injury and a rough first round.
The exception was Finau, the only one of the five players in the top 30 of the latest world ranking whose performance matched his resume.
Finau, who had an eagle on No. 6, saved two of his four birdies for the final three holes. On the 18th, he stayed away from the water that Johnson hit three straight times on Thursday and produced a downwind approach shot out of the rough that landed on the green about 5 feet away. He sank the putt to finish with a 66 at 11-under.
“When you shoot two rounds in the 60s, it doesn’t matter how the conditions are playing. You know you’re playing good golf,” Finau said. “It’s been two really clean rounds for me. You can always build off that.”
Gooch, another Tour upstart seeking his first career victory, posted a 65 to match Finau at 131. Xinjun Zhang is in fifth place at 10-under.
“Growing up in Oklahoma helps on these types of days, so I kept the ball low and kept it in the fairway, hit a bunch of greens,” Gooch said.
After playing in the afternoon on Thursday, the co-leaders benefited from a short turnaround. Thompson, who played in the first group of the day with a 6:50 a.m., moved even with Werenski on the 194-yard 17th hole. The 35-year-old Thompson, who has one career PGA Tour victory, landed his tee shot on the back of the green and then made a 20-foot putt for birdie.
“The big thing is just try not to overpower the golf course, stay within myself, make good, comfortable swings,” Thompson said.
The good ones just didn’t get any applause.
“It’s weird. Obviously I wish fans were able to come out here, but I would say I’m almost kind of used to it now. It’s been a few weeks of this,” Werenski said.
Defending champion Matthew Wolff was 9 under after a 68 in a bid to match Daniel Berger with the rare feat of picking up his first two PGA Tour victories at the same tournament. Berger did so at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis in 2016 and 2017.
The two players in the event who hail from Michigan both missed the cut.
Mount Pleasant’s Ryan Brehm (Michigan State) shot a 5-over 76 in his second round after shooting a 68 in his first. White Lake’s Jake Kneen, who opened with a tournament-worst 78, played much better in the second round, shooting an even-par 71 but also failed to qualify for weekend play.
Renato Paratore birdied the last hole to shoot 5-under 66 and retain his one-stroke lead on Friday after three rounds at the British Masters, where he has yet to drop a shot all week.
On a day of low scoring that included a round of 61 by Sam Horsfield containing three eagles, Paratore maintained his consistency to add to bogey-free rounds of 65 and 66 over the first two days. He was 16-under par overall at Close House Golf Club.
Justin Harding of South Africa shot 66 and was the closest challenger to the 270th-ranked Paratore heading into the final round of an event that marks the full return of the European Tour following its four-month suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rasmus Hojgaard of Denmark was a stroke back after also shooting 66.
Horsfield was tied for fifth — four shots off the lead — after making eagle at the par 5s at Nos. 7 and 10 before rolling in a 50-footer for another at the par-5 No. 17.
“I actually never thought about a 59 until walking up the 18th fairway,” Horsfield said. “I missed a couple of putts on 13 and 14 from 12 (and) 15 feet, and I said to my caddie walking up 18, ‘I may as well hole it and try to shoot 59.’
“I didn’t do that, but I had it going today, which was nice.”