Recap of the day
Morning wave: Only one course on the PGA TOUR witnessed more par breakers than Trinity Forest last year so would the players find conditions tougher for the second edition at the Dallas venue? That would be no. At least not in the soft conditions on Thursday morning. Denny McCarthy led the charge with 8-under 63, followed by 64s from Tyler Duncan and Tom Hoge. Six other a.m. starters, including pre-tourney betting favorite Brooks Koepka, posted 65s.
Afternoon wave: Scoring became a little tougher and no-one could reel in the leader. Shawn Stefani and Sung Kang both added to the bunch on 6-under while Matt Every needed to birdie the last to match McCarthy but bogeyed instead for a 65.
Revised betting: 4/1 Koepka, 14/1 Stenson, 16/1 Matsuyama, 20/1 Spieth, Mitchell, 28/1 Perez, Mullinax.
Friday weather forecast
The t-storm threat still lurks but the most surprising weather news is the temperature. It’s low 50s in the morning and will only just creep into the 60s in the afternoon. The later starters get slightly warmer conditions and gentler winds (8mph compared to 12mph in the morning).
Leaders after 18 holes
Denny McCarthy (63) – Walked to the sixth tee at 2-over-par for the tournament following a double at 4 but then birdied ten of his next 12 holes! A par at the last meant he was home in 29. Gained over five strokes with the putter, after finding 11 fairways and 13 greens.
Tyler Duncan (64) – Just 1-under after nine but played his next seven holes in 6-under, aided by a hole-out eagle from 57 feet at 5. Putter his main weapon but consistent in the other main SG categories.
Tom Hoge (64) – No bogeys, birdied all three par 5s and also had a trio of deuces on his card. Missed just two fairways and two greens and backed it up with strong putting.
Fate of the favorites
Brooks Koepka (65) – “I wouldn’t say it suits my eye. I love the old course that they used to play a lot better,” said the three-time major winner later. Still, an eight-birdie 66 suggests otherwise. Pelted 15 greens and putter hot.
Hideki Matsuyama (67) – Will hope to become Japan's first male major winner next week but, for now, six birdies against two bogeys and a solid start here. Nothing really jumping out in his stats but negative SGP: Around The Green.
Jordan Spieth (68) – Seven birdies was good. A double and two bogeys not so smart from the local hero, who has a membership here. Hit 12 fairways and 15 greens.
Denny McCarthy (63): “They (conditions) were soft. I'm not the farthest hitter so the golf course played somewhat long for me but I really put some work in on my mid-irons, long irons so gave me a chance to work on those today. Hit a lot of great ones today. And I've been putting great the last couple months so kind matched up the ball-striking with the putting today.”
Tyler Duncan (64): “I think you definitely have more scoring opportunities on that front side. You have some wedges, reachable par-5s and that backside played really long this morning. So, I played it pretty well on the back-9 and got the scoring opportunities and took advantage of them.”
Tom Hoge (64): “It was perfect the first 11, 12 holes we played. It was soft with no wind. You had to get after it because there were a lot of birdies to be made. The fairways are pretty generous. You get it in the fairway and with no wind and soft you can fire right at it pretty good. I've been looking forward to Colonial. I live in Fort Worth, a little bit outside there. I'm trying to play well and get my way in. It's been a little bit of motivation for me last few weeks to work hard and try to get in there.”
Brooks Koepka (65): “This is probably about as true of a links golf course you're going to find in America. Obviously with the rain it doesn't play like it, being so soft, but this is a great course. the fairways are very wide. Very generous. Hit a lot of drivers. You can try to get it down there, use my length a little bit of an advantage there. These greens are very large and very slopy. They can put the pins in a bunch of different places and got to play the hole backwards. I'm pleased with the way I played. What I did there on 6 or I forget the hole, 7, whatever hole it was, just hit a flyer from the middle of the fairway, and 9 didn't hit a good shot. Other than that, I struck the ball beautifully.”
Kramer Hickok (65): “It was great. Soft conditions and the winds were down so just absolute scoring conditions, which was great. I played at this golf course, I was a member here for two years. It just feels very comfortable out there, knowing sight lines and how the ball is going to react. Good round. Hit it really nice, best I hit it all year. Just switched putters on Monday to a Scotty Cameron Mallet. The hole looked huge.”
Road to victory at Trinity Forest
2018 Aaron Wise – R1: 4th, R2: 2nd, R3: 1st
Notes: Wise was four back after 18 holes last year but only because Marc Leishman shot a freakish 61. Wise’s 65 put him in a tie for fourth and he added rounds of 63-68-65 to win with 23-under.
Fate of the 18-hole leaders at Trinity Forest – where did they finish?
2018 Marc Leishman – 2nd
Notes: An afternoon 10-under 61 gave the Aussie a three-shot lead over J.J. Spaun and Jimmy Walker. He added a 66 in round two to reach 15-under but slightly slowed on the weekend with rounds of 69-68 to allow Wise to fly past.
Focus on – Next week
There’s no exact science about playing the week before a major and whether it’s a help or a hindrance. Of course, it’s very much personal preference. However, many players have found it useful playing the Houston Open before Augusta and a Scottish Open on links before the Open Championship as conditions, whether natural or manufactured, are similar to the main event ahead. However, can Trinity Forest really help anyone prep for next week’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black? The courses are wildly different and scoring today was super-low. Perhaps making a bunch of birdies builds confidence but it can be argued that it lulls players into a false sense of security too. Brooks Koepka is the only player from the top ten in the OWGR playing here. His take? “I like playing and building some rhythm. I feel a little bit more comfortable going into a major. If I was home, I probably wouldn't be practising. It's nice to hit some balls and hit some putts before going into a major."
Focus on – Tony Romo
If you missed this pre-tourney, let’s just put this out there from Jeff Sherman at SuperBookUSA in Vegas.
Tony Romo accounts for 25% of tickets and 28% of money wagered! Where to begin with that?!
So how did the former Cowboys quarterback get on? Well, a chip-in eagle at 7 briefly took him to 2-under and just outside the top 50 before a stumble home with three bogeys and a pair of double bogeys. He turned in a 5-over 76 at day's end which puts him in the bottom five on the leaderboard (not including DJ Trahan who withdrew)... but not dead last.