Leishman sets 36-hole Nelson record, keeps Spieth 8 behind
Hometown star Jordan Spieth really wants it to blow.
Leishman followed the best round of his PGA Tour career with a 5-under 66 at the new Trinity Forest course Friday, reaching the halfway point at 15-under 127 for a one-shot lead over 21-year-old rookie Aaron Wise – and keeping Spieth eight back on the links-style layout where the Dallas native is a member.
Maybe Spieth isn’t the only one who feels at home.
”This course has got a real Australian feel to it,” said Leishman, the 34-year-old Aussie who opened with a 10-under 61 . ”Reminds me a lot of home. So that might have something to do with it.”
Winds were stronger on the treeless tract, but not until late in the morning rounds of Leishman and most of the others on the second-round leaderboard.
The wind didn’t bother Wise, who shot a bogey-free 63 in the afternoon. He will be in the final group for the third round two weeks after tying for second while playing with Wells Fargo winner Jason Day on Sunday.
”It makes this course play way different just because of how firm and fast it is,” Wise said. ”You’re really out there with the wind. I just felt like we did a great job of managing it, leaving our ball in good spots.”
”I was telling my caddie it’s never this calm in Dallas three days in a row,” said Gay, who has played every Nelson except one since 2000. ”Looks like it might start picking up now.”
That’s what Spieth figures he needs since he’s more familiar with wind and firmer greens on a course named for the 6,000 acres of thick trees surrounding the undulating layout a few miles south of downtown Dallas. The Nelson spent the past 35 years in suburban Irving.
Spieth, at 7-under 135 after matching Leishman’s 66, would feel a little better about making a run if the three-time major champion hadn’t missed two putts inside 3 feet for two of his three bogeys.
The first was from 15 inches early in the round when Spieth was lurking around the cut line. The second came on his final hole , the ninth, while ending a run of four straight birdies.
The forecast Saturday has wind gusts reaching 25 mph, and the player with the highest world ranking in the field at No. 3 is hoping for at least that. He’s trying to improve his best Nelson finish of a tie for 16th as a 16-year-old amateur in 2010.
”If the wind really does pick up, which I really hope it does and the course can show some teeth, you’re looking at a potential winning score at under 20 under even though it took 15 for the first two,” said Spieth, who missed the cut in the final Nelson at the TPC Four Seasons last year. ”Just dicey.”
Leishman made a 56-footer for birdie at the par-3 12th, his third hole, and separated from the pack with four birdies in five holes to start his back nine after his first missed fairway and only bogey came on the par-4 15th. Gay closed the gap with birdies on all six par-4s for a 29 on the back nine.
The previous 36-hole record for the Nelson was 12-under 128 at the par-70 Four Seasons. Woods did it twice along with four others. Wise matched the 128 and is at 14 under.
”I’m not disappointed that the wind’s forecast to get up,” said Leishman, a three-time PGA Tour winner. ”With it down, I’ve done OK.”
As has fellow Aussie Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters winner who is trying to avoid sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open to maintain a major streak that goes back to 2001. He shot a bogey-free 65 and is among five players at 10 under a week after finishing tied for 11th at the Players Championship.
”Last week and the first two rounds this week, really promising for me,” said Scott, the 2008 Nelson winner. ”I’ve got a lot to play for this weekend.”
Scott and Leishman played together the first two days and wouldn’t mind doing it again. Both made comparisons to courses from their homeland, with Leishman saying the most important similarity is contour around greens that can trick players into shooting for pins when they shouldn’t.
”You’re always trying to play it a little safer because you know how bad it is if you were to miss the green and then it runs off,” Leishman said. ”That’s probably the big thing, the runoffs around the greens.”
Defending champion Billy Horschel shot 69 and was 5 under.
Hideki Matsuyama, the only other world top 10 besides Spieth in the field at No. 9, shot 63 to join him at 7 under. Sergio Garcia, the 2017 Masters champion and two-time Nelson winner, missed the cut at 1 under.