NORTON, Mass. (AP) For at least one day, the battle at the bottom was more compelling than the battle for No. 1 at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Whoever lands at No. 1 in the world ranking – Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth or Jason Day – won’t be decided until after the traditional Labor Day finish at the TPC Boston. And even after the good (Day shot 68), pretty good (McIlroy shot 70) and the ugly (Spieth shot 75), the only number that matters is the math used for the ranking formula.
Far more easier to understand is the FedEx Cup.
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Luke Donald made a late surge just to get into the top 125 who qualify for the PGA Tour’s version of a postseason. He started at No. 119, and then moved into the top 100 who advanced to the Deutsche Bank with a tie for 24th in the opening playoff event.
On Friday, he made six birdies for a 67 and was part of a nine-way tie for second behind Brendon de Jonge.
Donald had to qualify for the U.S. Open and British Open this year. If he can somehow get to the Tour Championship, he would be exempt for all the majors. The first step, however, is getting into the top 70 who move on to the BMW Championship north of Chicago in two weeks.
That will be played at Conway Farms, the home course of Donald.
”First things first, I’ve got to get to Conway, which is obviously a place I’m very familiar with, my home course up in Chicago,” Donald said. ”So keep playing some solid golf I’ll get there.”
Also tied for second was Colt Knost, who is No. 95 in the FedEx Cup and needs a big push.
Not to be overlooked was the leader. De Jonge is No. 56, which is hardly safe with the volatile points system. But he had a round out of nowhere in calming conditions Friday and posted a 65 for a two-shot lead.
Here’s what to look for on Saturday:
DE JONGE: Two years ago, the burly Zimbabwean made his Presidents Cup debut and held his own. Teaming with Ernie Els, they won two matches, including a victory over Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar. He thought it would translate to bigger achievements, such as his first PGA Tour victory.
De Jonge is still waiting. He lost in a playoff to Robert Streb at the McGladrey Classic. But he has slipped far down the Presidents Cup standing, and with the International team to be decided on Tuesday, he’s not counting on a trip to South Korea.
A victory might change everything. But that’s a long way off, especially for a guy who has never won.
SPIETH’S SHORT FUSE: On the eve of the Deutsche Bank Championship, Spieth talked about controlling his emotions and learning to deal with what he described as a short fuse. The fuse on the Masters and U.S. Open champion was downright minuscule on Friday.
He was irritated by a poor shot that plugged into the lip of a bunker on No. 11. And a shot that barely cleared the hazard on No. 12. And a poor shot from the fairway into a tough spot in the bunker on No. 13. Each bogey, the irritation became more evident.
Spieth’s 75 matched his highest start of the year and, coming off a missed cut at The Barclays, put him in a perilous spot Saturday. He has never missed back-to-back cuts in his career. This is the first time since June of 2014 that he has gone three straight rounds over par.
THE UNPREPARED: Bubba Watson and Ian Poulter did not set foot on the golf course until Friday’s opening round, for different reasons, and they got mixed results.
Watson felt a twinge in his back hitting a 7-wood out of the rough last week, so he took the entire week off getting therapy and rest. The problem? He had no idea about the speed of the greens, and it cost him in a round of 73.
As for Poulter? He does not have much affection for the TPC Boston, so he tried something different. He didn’t play a practice round. He took a pass on the pro-am.
It made him concentrate a little harder, and he opened with a 67.
PRESIDENTS CUP: The Americans outside the top 10 didn’t make much of an impression on U.S. captain Jay Haas to be a captain’s pick. Streb (69) was the only player from No. 11 to No. 20 to break par. Bill Haas, the captain’s son, needs to finish alone in fifth to have a chance to qualify for the team. He shot 73.
Moore is No. 20 and had his day ruined early. He took a 10 on his second hold and shot 78.