Recap of the day
Morning wave: Wyndham Clark looked to be suffering a classic case of losing the magic when trying to back up his opening 61 but a pair of closing birdies ensured he found another round in the 60s, his 2-under 69 taking him to 12-under. That was one clear of Billy Horschel, who birdied 16 ("yeahhhhh") and 18. Hudson Swafford (67) and Adam Long (68) kept up their title bids while moves were made by Ryder Cup duo Bubba Watson and Tony Finau, who both got it to 7-under with 6-under 66s. Defending champion Rickie Fowler made it back inside the cut line after following his opening 74 with a 65.
Afternoon wave: A new leader emerged as J.B. Holmes cruised to the top of the pile with a 65 to back up his opening 64. It secured a one-shot lead. Byeong Hun An pulled to within two of Holmes with an afternoon 66 while Scott Piercy’s 65 lifted him eight spots to solo fifth. Jon Rahm had the crowds going with five straight birdies from the 11th but bogeyed 16 after missing the green (“boooooo”) and dropped another at 18.
Leaderboard: -13 J.B. Holmes, -12 Wyndham Clark, -11 Billy Horschel, Byeong Hun An, -10 Scott Piercy, -9 Hudson Swafford, Nate Lashley, -8 Adam Long, Branden Grace, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, -7 Bubba Watson, Tony Finau, Jon Rahm, Keith Mitchell, CT Pan.
Low round of the day: 63 Webb Simpson
Cut: 67 players made it through on -1 or better
Revised outright betting
4/1 Holmes, 8/1 Horschel, An, 9/1 Rahm, 10/1 Clark, 14/1 Schauffele, 16/1 Simpson, 18/1 Piercy, 25/1 Grace, Bubba, Thomas, 28/1 Finau, 33/1 Lashley
Saturday weather forecast
It’s another pleasant day and scoring conditions look ideal for the later starters. Sunshine, temps in the early 70s and very little wind.
Leaders after at 36 holes
J.B. Holmes (65, 129) – Went 2-2 at 16 and 17, having a shorter putt for eagle at the latter (6ft) than for birdie at the former (16ft). Bogeyed his final hole, No. 9, after going two clear. Ranks 2nd in SG: Tee To Green to this point and 9th in SG: Putting.
Wyndham Clark (69, 130) – Shot 1-over on the front nine but three birdies in the final five holes regained a little of the momentum of his opening 61. His DA (9 of 14 fairways both days) and GIR (13 today compared to 14 in R1) stats were very similar but the putts wouldn’t drop today. T1 for the week in birdies.
Billy Horschel (68, 131) – Hit three more fairways (11 of 14) and one more GIR (13) than in yesterday’s 63 but the big difference was the putter. In R1, Horschel gained 5.271 strokes with the blade but it was minus figures in round two.
Byeong Hun An (69, 130) – A full set of pars going out but five birdies coming home in a bogey-free lap. So far this week, he’s -1 on the front and -10 on the back. Ranks 1st for SG: Tee To Green.
Fate of the favorites
Webb Simpson was the big mover, going out in 29 after six birdies from Nos. 2-9 and adding two more in a best-of-the-day 63 to climb 58 spots to T8. He pelted 16 greens. Jon Rahm (68) is a shot further back in T12 but needs to sharpen up a little across the board while Justin Thomas is T17 after a pair of 68s left him seven adrift (not a bad place to be if you read below). JT isn’t in the top 20 for any of the Strokes Gained categories. Double Phoenix winner Hideki Matsuyama scraped into the weekend on the number after a miserable 3-over 74. He drove it poorly and had a cold putter.
J.B. Holmes (65) – “Hit a lot of good putts. Hit it really good in the middle of the round. Didn't hit it quite as good towards the end, but putted really well and was able to make some birdies out there.”
Wyndham Clark (69) – “It was kind of a rough start. I was all over the place, didn't feel great with my swing, but then I kind of hit two good shots on 8 and 9 that led to the back side, and then I really started hitting some awesome shots. I had a lot of birdie looks on 10, 11, 12, and coming in the last kind of three, four holes, I had birdie looks and finally got some to fall on the last two.”
Billy Horschel (68) – “I feel good. The game's in a good spot. It was a really solid day, especially to birdie 16 which I love doing.”
Bubba Watson (66) – “I just played solid and played a putt here, made a putt there.”
Tony Finau (66) – “I feel like I shot 60 out there today with my record (MC in each of the last four years). But I look forward to the weekend. I'm hitting it nice, rolling it nice, and anything can happen on the weekend and I'm just happy I'm in contention.”
Jon Rahm (68) – “I'm very frustrated right now. I'm not going to lie. Those last three holes were playing extremely easy. 16 was playing really short straight down wind. 17 I hit an okay 3-wood to the front of the green. 18 is a driver/wedge. Couldn't picture a much easier finish than that. So to drop two on those last three holes, yeah, it's rather disappointing.”
Rickie Fowler (65) – “Just drove it a lot better today. I drove it poorly yesterday (74) and just kind of put myself in tough positions. So had to just try and salvage what we could yesterday and then come back out today, try and look at it as a new day, and I think we did a good job of that.”
Road to victory at TPC Scottsdale
2018 – Rickie Fowler R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2017 – Gary Woodland R1: 7th, R2: 8th, R3: 8th
2016 – Hideki Matsuyama R1: 2nd, R2: 3rd, R3: 3rd
2015 – Hideki Matsuyama R1: 1st, R2: 4th, R3: 2nd
2014 – Brooks Koepka R1: 64th, R2: 20th, R3: 2nd
Notes: Koepka was still seven back at this stage and Kyle Stanley (2012) and Hunter Mahan (2010) also overcame 36-hole deficits of that same margin so three of the last ten winners had much work to do on the weekend. However, dating back to 1996 shows that the average round two position of the winner was 6.38.
Fate of the second-round leaders at TPC Scottsdale – where did they finish?
Notes: Rickie Fowler converted a 36-hole lead last year but, since 2001, the only other players to win after leading at halfway were Phil Mickelson and current pacesetter J.B. Holmes. Mickelson did it twice, in 2005 and 2013. Starting from 2009, no R2 leader has finished worse than 17th.
Focus on – J.B. Holmes
The last time Holmes led at halfway? Well, that didn’t go so well as he closed with an 87 (you read that right) to finish T67 in last summer’s Open Championship at Royal Portrush. On the plus side, the two-time winner of this event converted a 36-hole hole lead in this very event in 2008 and has form of 1-2-2 on the three occasions he’s led at halfway in a non-major.
Focus on – Jordan Spieth
Spieth has fallen outside the world’s top 50 but won’t be reversing the fall this week after a missed cut following rounds of 74-69. That followed T55 at Torrey Pines on his opening start of the decade. His assessment? “Overall I'm really happy with the progress I've made off the tee. I mean, that was the best I've driven the ball in a couple years. So when that happens I know the rest of it's kind of coming behind.” That stats don’t exactly back that up on first glance as he piped just 8 (of 14) fairways and gained just 0.536 strokes Off the Tee. However, a gain is a gain. In the last seven tournaments where SG: OTT was measured, Spieth had suffered minus figures. Here, he was positive in both his rounds. Dig beneath the surface and perhaps the turnaround has started.
Saudi International - Recap of R2
Victor Perez is one of the in-form players on the European Tour and the Frenchman will have a shot at a second win in the space of nine starts after taking a one-stroke lead into the weekend at Royal Greens. A second 65 took the World No. 41 to 10-under 130 and put him one clear of Gavin Green (67) while Graeme McDowell (68) is a further shot back in third.
It's worth noting that five of those in the top seven at the midpoint all finished in the top 20 here last year.
As for the big-name Americans, Dustin Johnson is five back (T8) as he attempts to defend the title he won last year while Phil Mickelson, who bogeyed the only two par 5s at Royal Greens today, is tied for 12th and six adrift.
Brooks Koepka can't get much going and is nine behind in tied 38th after rounds of 70 and 69 while Patrick Reed is done for the week after missing the cut. Reed managed just a single birdie across his two rounds.
One nice angle is that the two leaders, Perez and Green, were college roommates at the University of New Mexico. They head out in the final two-ball together at 13.00 local in round three.
R2 leaderboard: -10 Victor Perez, -9 Gavin Green, -8 Graeme McDowell, -7 Renato Paratore, -6 Ross Fisher, Victor Dubuisson, Jazz Janewattananond, -5 Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson, Marcus Kinhult, Francesco Laporta.
Notables: -4 Shane Lowry, Jhonattan Vegas, Phil Mickelson, -3 Thomas Pieters, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, -1 Abraham Ancer, Brooks Koepka, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Evs Ian Poulter, +1 HaoTong Li, Matthias Schwab.
Low round of the day: 64 Martin Kaymer
Cut: 76 players made it through on 1-over 141 or better
Revised betting: 9/4 Perez, 6/1 Green, 9/1 McDowell, 10/1 DJ, 16/1 Janewattananond, Paratore, 20/1 Stenson, 28/1 Fisher, 33/1 Kinhult, Lowry, 40/1 Dubuisson, 50/1 Mickelson, 66/1 Koepka.