It was going to be a difficult task for Jon Rahm to follow up a career-low round, but he did a good job of it on Friday at the CareerBuilder Challenge despite a rocky start. The Spaniard posted a five-under 67 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West, which has him at 15-under 129 through 36 holes, one back of leader Andrew Landry.
Rahm, 23, began his second round just like he did the first, opening with consecutive birdies at the 10th and 11th holes of the Nicklaus Course, but then made his first bogey of the week at the 12th, and sandwiched two birdies between another bogey on the following three holes. After all that he was two under through six holes and was able to settle in, making nine pars and three birdies the rest of the way.
“It wasn’t as pure as yesterday. They were good shots, but just off. Same with the putts. It was very close, very close,” he said. “And I think everything clicked on, I think it was my 15th hole, number six. I hit a great drive and I started hitting really pure shots.
“I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked. But I just was hanging in there because I knew I was going to have a bad stretch of holes at some point and it’s always great if those bad ones are birdie putts.”
After an impressive opening two rounds, Rahm heads to the Stadium Course at PGA West on Saturday, which will provide the stiffest test of the week for the No.3 player in the world.
Leading the way at 16-under 128 is Landry, who fired a seven-under 65, also on the Nicklaus Course. Many will remember the University of Arkansas alum from when he earned a spot in the final group on Sunday of the 2016 US Open at Oakmont, but Landry has put together a solid resume since, winning his second Webcom Tour event in 2017 and registering six top-five finishes. His 2018 season on the US PGA Tour is off to a promising start, including a T-7 finish at the Safeway Open and a T-4 at the RSM Classic. Landry, who has yet to make a bogey this week, will also face the Stadium Course on Saturday.
At 14-under 130 is Jason Kokrak, who shot a five-under 67 on the Nicklaus Course. Three players are right behind him at 13-under 131, including Zach Johnson thanks to his eight-under 64 on the Nicklaus Course, which tied for the lowest round in the field on Friday.
Among a group four shots back at 12-under 132 is Nick Watney, who posted a five-under 67 at La Quinta Country Club to go with his opening seven-under 65 on the difficult Stadium Course at PGA West. The five-time PGA Tour winner has had his share of struggles in recent years, mainly due to a back injury that sidelined him for nearly all of 2016. That made it easy to forget that he was once one of the top players in the world, rising to as high as No.9 in the Official World Golf Ranking during a breakout stretch from 2011 to 2012 that saw him notch three victories, his last coming at the 2012 Barclays. He’ll begin his weekend on the Nicklaus Tournament Course in contention, a spot he hasn’t found himself in quite some time on tour.
Watney was joined at 12 under by Brandon Harkins and Brian Gay. Austin Cook, Kevin Na, Adam Hadwin, Scott Piercy and Brian Harman sit five back in a tie for 10th at 11-under 133.
Maverick McNealy, who hopes to capitalise in his limited starts on the PGA Tour, is at 10-under 134 after posting a four-under 68 on the Nicklaus Course.
Like most Phil Mickelson rounds, Friday’s second-round four-under 68 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course was an eventful one. The five-time Major champion made three birdies and two bogeys on his opening nine to turn in one-under 35, which he followed with a strong final stretch that included four birdies and a bogey on his last six holes. Mickelson, who hopes to make a move on Saturday at the Stadium Course, sits at six-under 138, 10 shots off the lead.