Recap of the day
Morning wave: Sung Kang tied the course record by thrashing a 10-under-par 61 to leap fully four shots clear of his fellow morning starters on 16-under 126. His blistering second lap witnessed ten birdies and eight pars. Pity playing partner Matt Every who completed a second 65 of the week to total 12-under and was left choking on Kang’s fumes. Martin Laird carded a 66 for 9-under, alone in third in the clubhouse yet seven back! Jordan Spieth’s 67 had him lunching on 7-under and wondering what Kang had been up to (see quotes below).
Afternoon wave: Tyler Duncan joined Every in a tie for second on 12-under with a 66, a good back-up of his opening 64. Pre-tournament favorite Brooks Koepka shot a 66 to move into solo fourth on 11-under and Rory Sabbatini’s good form was maintained with a 65 for 10-under and fifth on his own.
Low round of the day: Kang’s superb 61
Cut: 2-under 140
Revised outright betting: Kang 6/4, Koepka 11/4, Every 16/1, Sabbatini 16/1, Duncan 18/1, Laird 28/1
Saturday weather forecast
Although it is predicted to be cloudy and cold (high 50s), there is only a 10% chance of rain. The wind will be around 10mph.
Leaders at 36 holes
Sung Kang (61, 126) – A quite simply extraordinary front nine saw him birdie the first, then the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth, but here’s the thing: The longest putt he holed for those circled numbers was 7’8”. On the back nine he drained four birdies from between 11 and 22 feet for birdie and added another in that range for par at the 18th.
Matt Every (65, 130) – He landed 12 of 14 fairways on his way to seven birdies and one bogey. He’s needed just 1.556 putts per GIR through 36 holes.
Tyler Duncan (66, 130) – He landed 15 of 18 greens in regulation in the round and for the week he is needed just 1.571 putts per GIR. Made a front nine birdie hat-trick and six in all.
Brooks Koepka (66, 131) – After a birdie at the first he dropped two shots in three holes, but made quiet progress thereafter until four straight ticks from the 14th hoisted him into genuine contention.
Fate of the favorites
Brooks Koepka – see above
Hideki Matsuyama (70, 137) – Opened from the tenth and made 11 straight pars. He bucked the trend with a bogey and only made progress with late birdies at 6 and 8. Landed every fairway and found 14 of 18 green in regulation.
Jordan Spieth (67, 135) – High up the leaderboard and yet he’s only made 18 pars through 36 holes. He’s also ticked 14 birdies, three bogeys and two double bogeys. He’s landed 3 in 4 greens in regulation and needed 1.519 putts when he’s done so.
Sung Kang (61) – “My caddy and me both knew the weather would be cooler. The biggest thing was we needed to figure out how much shorter the ball was going to fly so we tested it on the range and it was flying about 5% shorter than yesterday. We trusted the number, hit it and it worked out good.”
Jordan Spieth (67) – “Very pleased. I felt like I improved on yesterday which was already a solid day. I feel good on the greens. One or two tee balls today cost me a shot or two but, all in all, we just had some very difficult conditions. What Sung is doing right now is absurd given what we faced. I’m in position to fire away on the weekend, a chance to maybe shoot a couple low ones, gain some momentum for next week.”
Matt Every (65) – “I didn't even know Sung was playing that good until 11. Looked on the board and it said he’d made six in a row. Really, he's made six in a row?! I was kind of doing my own thing. This morning was brutal. It was like so cold out here.”
Martin Laird (66) – “It's not true links, but close and you definitely get that sort of feel. Some of the holes you got to land it 20 yards short and bounce it up. Around the greens, there's a little more elevation than maybe a true links course in Scotland. Definitely more of a Scottish weather today than Dallas this time of year.”
Henrik Stenson (69) – “I've been struggling with my game and trying to find some form and actually I feel like I'm moving in the right direction this week. I've been watching a lot of old swing videos and close contact with my coach, trying to get closer to where we need to be.”
Tyler Duncan (66) – “I hit my wife in the head on that hole yesterday. Took a big bounce and hit her. I didn't know until after the round so I'm just happy she's not hurt. Not long after we started dating she actually got hit in the head by another ball, a random ball from the driving range. She's dodged two hits to the head. I'm sure most people can't say that.”
Brooks Koepka (66) – “I'm putting pretty good. I'm seeing the lines quite well right now. The touch is pretty good.”
Road to victory at Trinity Forest
2018 Aaron Wise – R1: 4th, R2: 2nd, R3: 1st
Notes: Four back after round one, just the one swing adrift at halfway, he would go on to tie the 54-hole lead and then stretch three clear on Sunday. Textbook stuff.
Fate of the halfway leaders at Trinity Forest – where did he finish?
2018 Marc Leishman – 2nd
Notes: A 61-66 start gave the Aussie a one-shot advantage over the field and he finished well enough (69-68) to claim second, but Aaron Wise’s weekend 68-65 swept by him.
Focus on – Sung Kang
Did the Dallas resident have an advantage on this local course? It turns out he has played Trinity Forest just the once before it hosted this event, but that might have been enough. “It definitely helped out,” he said. “On a few holes I knew what the ball was going to do and the ninth I knew I didn't want to hit it long because it will take off and be gone. That one that helped.”
The 31-year-old Korean is no stranger to course records. In fact, he now holds or shares a total of five. They are:
11-under 60 (Monterrey Peninsula CC) – 2016 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am
7-under 64 (Bethpage) – 2016 The Barclays
8-under 64 (Plantation, Sea Island) – 2016/17 RSM
9-under 63 (Houston) – 2017 Houston Open
10-under 61 (Trinity Forest) – 2019 AT&T Byron Nelson
Despite all this flash he is still yet to lift a trophy. He has five top fives on the PGA Tour with a best of T2 at the 2017 Houston Open. Victory on Sunday would also earn him a last minute entry into next week’s PGA Championship and given he has the course record at Bethpage you’d think that is extra motivation.
Focus on – Jordan Spieth
For all his woes in recent times, the fact that the Texan is in a relatively high position on the leaderboard at this stage is no surprise. He hasn’t made a top ten finish since July last year, but he has been top ten at halfway in four of his last seven strokeplay starts ahead of this week (in that spell his final rounds read a rather less impressive 75-81-69-72-71-75). Over and above the fact that he is a member of the host club is the links nature of the course also an assistance to him? His last top ten anywhere was at Carnoustie in last year’s Open and his last victory was in the previous edition at Royal Birkdale in 2017.