Merritt takes four-shot lead after record-equalling 61 as Spieth finds form again
Masters champion gets back in contention after 62 while Graeme McDowell in share of fourth spot
Jordan Spieth waves to the gallery after making a birdie on the ninth hole, his last, during the second round of the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Photograph: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
A day of low scoring at the RBC Heritage saw American Troy Merritt take the lead on 12 under on the back of equalling the course record with an 11-under 61, while Masters champion Jordan Spieth blazed back into contention with a 62.
Graeme McDowell, champion at Harbour Town Golf Links in 2013, finished strongly with two birdies for a two-under 69 to move to seven under, five shots adrift of Merritt in a share of fourth spot.
Conditions were ideal for scoring at Hilton Head with the wind that had dogged the players on Thursday having disappeared.
Spieth had struggled in his opening round after missing out on a practice due to his hectic media schedule following his Major breakthrough at Augusta.
The 21-year-old Texan had looked tired and out of sorts when carding a three-over 74 on Thursday, but he was back on the birdie trail from the start of his second round, with the first coming at his opening hole, the 10th.
Spieth was in the kind of form saw him card a record-breaking 28 birdies over the four rounds of the Masters and he would make nine in total in his 62, tieing his career-low round.
That was one shot off David Frost’s course record from 1994, with Merritt going on to equal the South African’s mark thanks to a record back nine of 28 that included seven birdies and two pars. The 29-year-old from Iowa, who missed the cut at the Houston Open, also carded three birdies on the front nine.
Merritt was four shots clear of defending champion Matt Kuchar, who added a five-under 66 to his opening 68, and John Merrick, who went one better with a 65.
McDowell in a share of fourth spot on seven under alongside Kevin Kisner (67) and another former champion Jim Furyk, who carded a fine 64.
After starting with a birdie at the 10th, McDowell dropped shots at 14th and 18th to turn in one-over 36.
Like Spieth he made his real gains over the front nine, with birdies on the second and fifth before his third bogey on the sixth brought him back to level for the day.
A strong finish was required and birdie putts from four and 11 feet on the eighth and ninth helped the Portrush man leave the course with a smile.