Recap of the day
Morning wave: In yesterday's Round-up, Matt Cooper assessed Matt Every's R1-leading 65 and posed the question: 'What happens next? Good luck to anyone trying to predict it." The answer, unfortunately, for the wildly inconsistent double Bay Hill champion was an 11-over 83 that led to a missed cut. He joins an unwanted club. While Every struggled in the cool temperatures and challenging crosswinds, last week's winner, Sungjae Im, kept the good times rollin' with a 69 to share the morning lead of 5-under alongside Harris English (70). WGC-Mexico winner Patrick Reed added a second straight 70 to sit one back on 4-under. Conditions were tough so could the later starters do better?
Afternoon wave: The answer was 'yes' but it was still a struggle. England's Tyrrell Hatton hung up a second round in the 60s to set the new target of 7-under and he was joined soon after by Riviera runner-up Sung Kang. Danny Lee became the third player to surpass the morning target with a 67 that took him to 6-under the card. Rory McIlroy? Some wobbles and not really the day he wanted but a 1-over-73 left him just two back going into the weekend. Some big names were counted out when the cut fell at 3-over.
Low round of the day: 67 Danny Lee
Cut: A total of 69 players made it through on +3 or better.
Revised outright betting
McIlroy 11/4, Hatton 11/2, Im 8/1, Reed 11/1, Kang 11/1, Leishman 14/1, English 18/1, Lee 25/1, Fowler 25/1, Morikawa 33/1, Matsuyama 33/1.
Saturday weather forecast
It's sunny but mild, with temperatures only in the mid-to-high 60s. Once again, wind will be a factor and it looks to be around 12-15mph all afternoon.
Leaders after at 36 holes
Tyrrell Hatton (69, 137) – Five birdies against two bogeys today. Said he struggled with his swing a little but the stats suggest otherwise. He gained 4.677 strokes Tee To Green in R2 and is 9th for SG: Putting so far. T1 for birdies with 10.
Sung Kang (68, 137) – Tied the lead thanks to four birdies in his final seven holes. A very balanced attack to this point as he ranks 8th in both SG: Tee To Green and SG: Putting. Even more impressive is that he rates 2nd Off The Tee.
Danny Lee (67. 138) – Five back-nine birdies helped him card Friday's lowest lap. The secret to success? A red-hot putter. Lee gained 5.606 strokes on the field with his shortstick and is 2nd for the week in SG: Putting. Only 51st Tee To Green so is this sustainable if the course/conditions stay tough?
Fate of the favorites
Rory McIlroy dropped three shots at 7 and 8 but steadied the ship for a 73. The putter was cold today but he ranks 2nd for SG: Tee To Green and, just two behind, the rest will fear him. Hideki Matsuyama slipped a little to T17 after also carding 73. That's just five back but he's struggling on the greens (59th SGP). Bryson DeChambeau ranks 1st for SG: Off The Tee but the rest of his game isn't of that standard and he'll start the weekend seven adrift. But at least he has a chance, unlike Tommy Fleetwood whose Honda hangover continued with a second straight 76 and a missed cut by five shots. The Englishman had entered the week with a TOUR-best cuts-made streak of 33 events.
Tyrrell Hatton (69) - “It's been pretty tough. Obviously the wind's picked up quite a bit and the greens are releasing quite a lot. So, yeah, it's a challenge. I honestly don't know how I've got to 7-under with how I played the back nine today. I was going on quite nicely during my front nine and I feel like I just lost my swing a bit. So I'm really happy to get in the clubhouse with no damage done and looking forward to the weekend now."
Sung Kang (69) - “I drove it great today and then putted really nicely, so that helped out a lot today. I won before so I'll just try and stick with our game plan, nothing's changing, just play my game."
Danny Lee (67) - "I worked very hard on my putting with my short game coach and I finally feel like I got my putting back a little bit, so I just trusted my putting today and stayed patient and had a good result."
Harris English (70) - "It was tough. Usually when you tee off at 6:45 it's pretty calm conditions, but it was blowing from the 10th hole today. It was tough. They had some really good pins out there. The par-3s are playing tough. Ripping 4-iron, 3-iron into some of those holes. So I'm happy shooting 2-under. The course is still playing tough out there. The rough's up. It's nasty. I'm happy to be 5-under par right now and looking forward to the weekend."
Sungjae Im (69) - "I was hitting the ball really well. I was finding the fairway from the teebox more than yesterday, so it made my second shots a lot easier. Due to that, I had more looks at birdies. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t convert with my mid-range putts, but I’m still happy with how it went out there today."
Rory McIlroy (73) - "It was a grind. I think I made it more of a grind than I needed to. It was a different day. The conditions were a lot tougher than we got them yesterday morning. A lot of crosswinds. And then if you did miss fairways it's really tough with how firm these greens are to get it anywhere close."
Patrick Reed (70) - " My short game today saved me a lot and even yesterday my short game helped me a little bit.
Road to victory at Bay Hill
2019 Francesco Molinari – R1: 8th, R2: 3rd, R3: 17th
2018 Rory McIlroy – R1: 13th, R2: 11th, R3: 3rd
2017 Marc Leishman – R1: 20th, R2: 4th, R3: 3rd
2016 Jason Day – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2015 Matt Every – R1: 7th, R2: 2nd, R3: 3rd
Notes: The good news for the chasing pack is that this is a tournament where weekend charges are possible. Rory was six back after 36 holes two years ago, Vijay and Tiger came from seven adrift in 2007 and 2008 respectively while Matt Every was a whopping nine shots off the pace before shooting 66-70 to win the first of his Bay Hill titles in 2014. Francesco Molinari had a four-shot deficit to make up last year so it's been quite a theme.
Fate of the second-round leaders at Bay Hill – where did they finish?
Notes: Halfway leaders have a fine record if not necessarily a winning one. Eight of the last ten to own a piece of top spot after round two have gone on to finish in the top four although Day was the only one to convert. Rewind a little bit and a halfway leader took the silverware in 2010 (Ernie Els), 2011 (Martin Laird) and 2012 (Tiger) so generally it's a very good place to be.
Focus on – Phil Mickelson and the majors
Even at 49, Mickelson still gives the impression that he may have another major in him if everything falls into place. A missed cut here to go with another early exit at Riviera on his previous start isn't ideal but let's not forget that in February he had back-to-back top threes in the Saudi International and Pebble Beach. However, more disconcerting is Phil's concern about scheduling ahead of this year's majors, something he shared again after his Bay Hill MC today. "I'll play next week (THE PLAYERS) and then I'm not really sure. Heading into the majors my schedule's kind of in flux in all of them because I'm not real excited about the tournaments that are the week before. They don't really help you in the majors and yet I like to play, so I don't really have a good set formula to head into the majors this year." It's a genuine concern too. Looking at Mickelson's five major victories, he won the week before in two of them and finished T10 the week before in two others. The lack of a decent warm-up could seriously hamper his chances, especially as it's in his head and bugging him.
Focus on – Rickie Fowler and his Augusta build-up
While Mickelson is chasing a sixth major, Fowler is still seeking a first but his light schedule to start the year has been built with Augusta in mind. Ahead of last week's Honda Classic, he noted: "I took all fall off. We got married, honeymoon. I wanted to make sure that I was able to do that right and enjoy it. Yeah, I didn't play as great through maybe the kind of spring and summer last year, but also with the time off, that's been not out playing and not earning points, so that's been part of falling back. No, it's been a very, I think, beneficial time off. Yes, I've fallen back in World Rankings. A lot of that's just due to not having played, and now we're jumping back on the horse right now, and we'll climb our way back up to top 10 and go from there. So I'm looking forward to getting started back here at Honda, and as of right now, we're looking at playing six out of the next seven weeks." It didn't work out last week as he missed the cut due to a poor opener but a second-round 68 gave him some momentum for Bay Hill. So far, he's riding it with rounds of 71 and 70 putting Fowler T13 at the midpoint and just four off the lead. Speaking after Friday's round, he gave this update: "I'm really happy with where things have started and where they're going. JT (John Tillery) and I are working primarily on what the body's doing and the sequencing and making sure that the body is moving properly. I like where we're at and with where we have been going the last few weeks and especially when we look around the corner, PLAYERS, obviously a place I had success, and then obviously everyone's looking at Augusta." They sure are Rickie and plenty of gamers are looking at you.