NORTON, Mass. -- On a course where players typically expect to go low, swirling winds and firm, fast greens placed a premium on precision and punished players whose games were just a fraction off Friday.
Englishman Justin Rose had no problems however as he made the turn in two under before birdieing three of his final four holes on the more difficult back nine to take the overnight lead with a 65.
“I feel the front nine is easier than the back nine,” Rose said. “You have 11, 12, 13, 14, which is a pretty stout run. I was very aware that I had to get through that unscathed. And obviously knew there were some chances coming in, 15 onwards, to birdie three of the last four made a good day a very good day.”
2014 champion Chris Kirk took advantage of two early scoring opportunities and remained steady to the finish on his way to a 4-under 67.
“It was a tough day out there. Blustery wind that seemed to change directions and change intensity a lot,” Kirk said. “The golf course was very firm and there were some difficult pins. I was thankful to get out and take advantage of two wedges on the first two holes and make some birdies, and then a few more towards the end of the front nine.”
Fellow morning wave co-leader Beau Hossler agreed. The Texan bogeyed the par-5 second hole but played bogey-free the rest of the way and was thrilled to match Kirk’s 67 before Justin Rose shot an afternoon 65 to take the Day 1 lead.
“Truthfully anything under par is good today. Happy to get in 4 under par,” Hossler said.
Bradley looking to prove he’s back
It’s been seven years since Keegan Bradley burst onto the scene with a win in his first career start in a major at the 2011 PGA Championship. The years since have featured plenty of twists and turns as Bradley was one of the players most effected by the anchoring ban.
The New England native hasn’t won since the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational but has seen some encouraging results this summer.
Bradley finished fourth at the RBC Canadian Open last month and was in the final group on Sunday at The Northern Trust before a final-round 78 dropped him into a tie for 34th. Sunday’s round was particularly trying for Bradley as he hoped to reestablish himself as one of the game’s best.
“It was tough because I felt like that was my day to kind of tell everyone that I was back here and here to stay,” Bradley said. “I may have too much pressure on myself, but it’s nice to come back out and play quickly.”
Bradley chose to focus on what he gained from the week instead of the Sunday letdown.
“Not much from the final round, but from the first three rounds I took away that I was in the final group with the best players in the world,” he said. “That was a big step for me on Sunday to get there, and I hope that I can take more away from that than what I did on Sunday.”
Bradley is hoping a return to his hometown event -- he grew up in nearby Hopkinton, Mass. -- will help light a spark. He receives plenty of support from the Boston fans annually, which is something he’s grown to appreciate.
“I know coming in that I’m going to have a lot of support this week,” Bradley said. “That comes with some extra pressure as well, but I’ve learned to love coming here. It used to be a really tough week for me, I’d put so much pressure on myself. But I’ve learned to kind of go with it.”
Bradley’s strong play continued Friday, as an opening-round 67 left him tied at the top with Kirk and Hossler.
Spieth’s learning experience
Jordan Spieth is in the midst of the worst season of his career. He currently sits 33rdin the FedEx Cup and is without a victory this season.
Spieth has known nothing but success since he lit the world on fire in 2015, winning five times including two majors and the FedEx Cup. But he believes this season could be crucial to his career moving forward.
“I’ve learned more about my game this year than in any other season,” Spieth said. “I think if I look back at it the right way, and I have the last six months or so, just very patiently and really trying to dissect what’s gone on and why. If I continue to do that it could potentially be the most important season of my career.”
Spieth has struggled mightily on the greens as he currently ranks just 127th in strokes gained putting. The 25-year-old has worked hard on his mechanics and is starting to see some improvement.
“I’d say [my putting] is 90 percent back from where it was which is tremendous progress for sure,” Spieth said. “There’s still an adjustment that needs to be made at setup instead of being able to just stand right into it, but it’s minor compared to what I had to do before.”
After finishing second to Justin Thomas at this event a year ago, a return to TPC Boston could be just what Spieth needs as he looks to move back inside the top 30. A second FedEx Cup could help Spieth salvage what might otherwise be considered a lost season.
“I’d really like to make a run at the FedEx Cup,” Spieth said. “I think East Lake fits my game really well. I think I’m progressing week to week nicely. I’ve had a few Sunday afternoons, more the second half of the year than the first half of the year, and I’ve just got poor breaks early in those rounds the first 6-7 holes that kind of throw me out from having a chance. That happens. And I’m being patient with it.”