Brooks Koepka seizes initiative in Florida as Rory McIlroy stalls
Koepka moves into an ominous halfway lead as McIlroy signs for a rollercoaster 70
Brooks Koepka is well placed at the halfway stage in Florida. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty
Sometimes, it pays to fly in under the radar. Billy Horschel, without a win on the PGA Tour since his Byron Nelson win of 2017, flew in from left-field to claim the clubhouse lead with in-form Australian Cameron Smith at the midpoint of the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession Club outside Tampa in Florida.
However, the leading pair were soon usurped by Brooks Koepka, who carded a second round of 67 to move to 11 under par. Koepka’s lead could have been worth two strokes but he failed to get up and down for par on the 18th.
That was his sole dropped shot on Friday however, and he is well placed to follow up his victory in the Phoenix Open at the start of February with another title this weekend.
Horschel meanwhile had reached the 10-under-par mark of 134 with a second successive 67, while Australian Smith - riding high at 27th in the world rankings and chasing a first win on tour since his Sony Open success last year - added a 66 to his 68 to move into contention a week after finishing fourth at the Genesis Invitational, his fourth top-5 finish in his last seven tournaments.
“It was decent, but it definitely wasn’t my best stuff,” claimed Smith, the 27-year-old Australian with a distinctive mullet hairstyle. “The last few weeks I feel like I’ve probably done more practice than I have the last year. It just goes to show what a little hard work can do. I just feel like I’m playing really solid at the moment. This is probably the best my ball-striking has felt to myself in a very long time. I’m really comfortable with the short and long stuff and looking forward to the weekend. “
Rory McIlroy’s adventures on the course designed by Jack Nicklaus in association with Tony Jacklin continued, as the Northern Irishman’s bid to make a move was undone by a double-bogey seven on the Par 5 seventh hole where his tee shot finished in a fairway bunker and his recovery moved no more than 15 yards into trees. He eventually reached the green in five shots and two-putted for a double bogey.
In fairness to McIlroy, he recovered with birdies on the ninth, 11th and 12th holes before dropping a shot on the Par 3 14th after a wild tee shot, at which point he was one-under on his round and four-under for the tournament.
When McIlroy then threatened to mount a late charge with back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 he then stalled again with a bogey at the 18th, a second round of 70 leaving him on five under par for the tournament and with plenty to do.
Shane Lowry had opened with a level-par 72 and again failed to catch fire in a second round, which saw him one under - two birdies and one bogey - on his round through 12 holes. After back-to-back birdies on 12 and 13 Lowry parred his way home for a 70.
In the Puerto Rico Open, both Séamus Power and Pádraig Harrington survived into the weekend: Power, the Waterford player who had missed all three cuts on the PGA Tour this season, shot a 70 to reach the midpoint on five-under-par 139, while Harrington added a 72 to his opening 70 for 142 with American Brendan Wu, who mainly plays on the Korn Ferry Tour and world ranked 182nd, recording a second round 67 to claim the clubhouse lead on 11-under-par 133.
On the LPGA Tour, Leona Maguire stayed very much in contention in the Gainbridge Championship at Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida: the 26-year-old from Co Cavan, making her seasonal debut on the circuit, added a second round 72 for a midway total of three-under-par 141 to be inside the top-20 heading into the weekend.
Lydia Ko, a two-time Major champion claimed the clubhouse lead on 10-under-par 134 in adding a 69 to her opening round of 65, while Annika Sorenstam - playing on the tour for the first time since 2008 - was on the cut-line after adding a 71 to her opening 75, which had included a penalty stroke which was subsequently shown to be a wrong decision by the on-course rules official.
The LPGA Tour issued a statement admitting the Sorenstam ruling in Thursday’s first round was “an error under the definition of an immovable obstruction” after he ball finished under a gate inside the boundary of the course and she wasn’t allowed move it
Stephanie Meadow failed recovery sufficiently from her opening round 76, adding a 72 for 148 that left the Northern Irishwoman outside the cut.
Collated second round scores & totals in the World Golf Championships Workday Championship (USA unless stated, Par 72):
133 Brooks Koepka 67 66
134 Billy Horschel 67 67, Collin Morikawa 70 64, Cameron Smith (Aus) 68 66
135 Tony Finau 68 67, Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 66 69, Webb Simpson 66 69
136 Kevin Kisner 67 69, Patrick Reed 68 68
137 Abraham Ancer (Mex) 71 66, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 69 68
138 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 72 66
139 Jason Kokrak 70 69, Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 69 70, Scottie Scheffler 69 70, Justin Thomas 73 66
140 Jason Day (Aus) 71 69, Viktor Hovland (Nor) 71 69, Gary Woodland 71 69
141 Bryson DeChambeau 77 64, Sergio Garcia (Spa) 67 74, Yuki Inamori (Jpn) 73 68, Sebastian Munoz (Col) 69 72, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 69 72, Will Zalatoris 72 69
142 Cameron Champ 72 70, Lanto Griffin 70 72, Sung Jae Im (Kor) 68 74, Chan Kim 71 71, Marc Leishman (Aus) 72 70, Shane Lowry (Irl) 72 70, Kevin Na 73 69, Wade Ormsby (Aus) 68 74, Aaron Rai (Eng) 72 70
143 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa) 71 72, Thomas Detry (Bel) 70 73, Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 70 73, Ryan Palmer 71 72, Xander Schauffele 71 72, Jason Scrivener (Aus) 75 68, Lee Westwood (Eng) 74 69, Max Homa 73 70
144 Daniel Berger 73 71, Victor Perez (Fra) 69 75, Jon Rahm (Spa) 68 76, Justin Rose (Eng) 73 71, Adam Scott (Aus) 72 72, Trevor Simsby 74 70
145 Matt Kuchar 73 72, Min-Woo Lee (Aus) 74 71, Carlos Ortiz (Mex) 73 72, Brendon Todd 74 71, Brandon Stone (Rsa) 71 74
146 Mackenzie Hughes (Can) 73 73, Dustin Johnson 77 69, David Lipsky 70 76, Robert MacIntyre (Sco) 74 72, Erik van Rooyen (Rsa) 71 75
147 Rafael Cabrera (Spa) 74 73, Laurie Canter (Eng) 72 75, Harris English 78 69, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 75 72, Rasmus Hoejgaard (Den) 74 73
148 Sami Valimaki (Fin) 72 76
149 Daniel van Tonder (Rsa) 76 73, Bubba Watson 77 72
151 J. C. Ritchie (Rsa) 78 73, Bernd Wiesberger (Aut) 76 75
154 Lucas Herbert (Aus) 77 77, Brad Kennedy (Aus) 81 73
155 Andy Sullivan (Eng) 78 77