Recap of the day
With scoring mostly good on day two at Albany, the full 18-man line-up finished under par for the tournament with just nine shots separating first place and last. At one point, just six strokes covered the whole field before Jon Rahm and Henrik Stenson pulled away to post the joint lead of 10-under 134, the Spaniard arriving there with a 63 and the Swede a 66. That was a shot clear of Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay while another of the day’s big moves came from Tony Finau, who jumped to 8-under with a 64. Oh, and then there was the curious case of Tiger Woods and his ice hockey scoop shot. Watch it here and laugh how a penalty wasn’t given. The official reason; no added stroke(s) because it was “not discernible to the naked eye.” That’s that cleared up then.
Full leaderboard: -10 Jon Rahm, Henrik Stenson, -9 Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, -8 Tony Finau, -6 Gary Woodland, Alex Noren, -5 Rickie Fowler, -4 Keegan Bradley, Justin Rose, Justin Thomas, -3 Xander Schauffele, Bryson DeChambeau, -2 Tiger Woods, Hideki Matusyama, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed, -1 Jason Day.
Saturday weather forecast
Temperatures are locked in at 82 degrees but Saturday is set to be the windiest day of the week with gusts around 18mph.
Leaders after 36 holes
Jon Rahm (63, 134) – Missed just a single fairway and “only because they put a patch of rough in the middle of the fairway on 4”. Birdied four of the five par 5s to shoot his lowest round since an opening 62 at this year’s CareerBuilder Challenge, a tournament he went on to win.
Henrik Stenson (66, 134) – Hasn’t played much of late but the upside of that is freshness. The 2016 runner-up here has 14 birdies so far (seven in each round) and made just a single birdie today.
Dustin Johnson (67, 135) – DJ was dawdling a little but five birdies in six holes from the 11th took him within a shot of the two leaders.
Patrick Cantlay (70, 135) – The overnight leader found the going tougher Friday but not on the scale of fellow Thursday pacesetter Patrick Reed, who followed his 65 with a 77. Four birdies against two birdies.
Fate of the favorites
Justin Rose (70) – The Englishman must be kicking himself after only emerging with a second straight 70. He birdied four of the five par 3s and had seven circles in all but made five bogeys, two on par 5s. Now six back.
Rickie Fowler (72) – Was just 1-under for the tournament after a double at 12 but made a sweet move with a birdie-eagle-birdie burst from the 14th to get back into contention. Five back at halfway, just as he was last year when going on to lift the trophy.
Jon Rahm (63, 134): “I hit it so solid off the tee, I was always in the fairway with a short club in. Besides that, followed with some good iron play. I think the best way to describe it, having five par 5s and two relatively short par 4s out of those seven holes, I got six birdies out of the nine, right? So I capitalized on the easier holes today, played really good.”
Henrik Stenson (66, 134): “I'm feeling pretty good. Putting's been really solid these first couple of days. Short game as well, a lot of good up-and-downs. A couple of wishy-washy shots, but all in all, in good shape.”
Tiger Woods (69, 142): “You know, I didn't feel like I made contact twice. It was such a short little shot, I was just trying to hit it sideways there. Under slow motion and high def, you can see that the ball hit the clubface twice. Today I played much better. I finally hit my irons the way I normally do. Other than the last tee shot, I felt I really hit the golf ball well.”
Road to victory at Albany
2017 Rickie Fowler – R1: 2nd, R2: 5th, R3: 5th
2016 Hideki Matsuyama – R1: 2nd, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2015 Bubba Watson – R1: 4th, R2: 4th, R3: 1st
Notes: The three winners since the tournament moved to the Bahamas were all in the top five at halfway. Matsuyama was tied at the top, Bubba a shot back but Fowler was five off the pace so that offers hope to those playing catch-up on the weekend.
Fate of the 36-hole leaders at the Hero World Challenge – where did they finish?
2017 Charley Hoffman – 2nd
Notes: It’s been mixed news for the 36-hole leaders. Matsuyama converted his lead but Charley Hoffman, after surging to the front with a Friday 63, finished runner-up. Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth couldn’t get it done and the none of the trio of co-leaders in 2015 went on to finish in the top three.
Focus on – Tiger Woods
A miserable Ryder Cup, some poor play in defeat to Phil Mickelson in ‘The Match’ and a lacklustre first-round 73 has meant our latest glimpses of Tiger Woods have been negative. But it’s still only just over two months ago that he sent the golf world into frenzy by winning the Tour Championship and prior to that made serious runs at winning the final two majors of the season. We saw more of that Tiger today until a double at 18 left him down the field. So what of Tiger’s chances of adding to his haul of majors – stuck on 14 since 2008 – next season? The latest odds suggest the bookmakers are taking him very seriously. UK bookies make him 9/1 joint-favourite to win a fifth Green Jacket, 9/1 joint-favourite for the U.S. Open (well, it is at Pebble where he won by 15 shots in 2000), 12/1 co-favourite of four for The Open at Royal Portrush and 10/1 second favourite for the PGA at Bethpage (scene of Tiger’s 2002 U.S. Open win). Beyond The Open being at St. Andrews, it’s hard to image a better set of venues for Woods to continue his hunt towards Jack’s record of 18. Just as long as he removes that scoop shot from his game.
Focus on – Jon Rahm
Talking of majors and odds, joint-leader Rahm gave some useful info after his round today when asked to look ahead to 2019, starting with The Open: “It's great that it's on courses like Portrush, which I've played before but I know they've changed like 14 holes, so that scratches that. I do like the town of Portstewart, I won the Irish Open on Portstewart, right, so I definitely have good vibes there. Augusta, Pebble, places that I've played good on, I really like it, I enjoy it a lot. Then Bethpage is somewhere that I've never been, so I can't tell you what the PGA's going to be like.” Odds: Masters 22/1, US Open 25/1, The Open 22/1, PGA 20/1. Oh, and there’s also a wedding to fit in. Asked today if there was date, Rahm responded: “There is, but we're trying to keep it slow, pretty small, to be honest. We're really thinking of doing a small ceremony in Spain just because a lot of my family members can't fly all the way to the U.S. and vice versa where a lot of the family members can't go all the way to Spain. So do something small in Spain and then a couple months later do a ceremony in the U.S.”