The top rung of Friday’s leader board at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial belonged, for a second consecutive day, to a PGA Tour veteran.
Matt Kuchar, the No. 13 player in the world golf rankings and top-rated player in the Colonial field, saw to that. Kuchar buried a 6-foot birdie putt at No. 14 in Friday’s second round to reach 10 under par for the tournament shortly before the horn sounded to suspend play on a day marked by two weather-related interruptions.
Kuchar, one of 54 golfers who will return to Colonial at 7:15 a.m. Saturday to complete their suspended rounds, will be staring at a 41-foot birdie putt on the 16th green when play resumes Saturday morning.
Kuchar stands a stroke ahead of Graham DeLaet, who completed his second round at 9 under, and is two strokes ahead of Colleyville resident Ryan Palmer (8 under), the first-round leader who has six holes remaining in his suspended second round.
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Palmer, a Texas A&M graduate, buried a 27-foot birdie putt on the 12th green on his final stroke Friday and will resume today’s round on the 13th tee. Seventy-seven golfers left the course Friday with scores of 1 under or better, meaning today’s 36-hole cut figure probably will be 1 under (139 total).
Kuchar called it “a bit of a bummer” that play was suspended at 6:38 p.m., when he said scoring conditions were “just perfect.”
“It’s no fun to wake up at 4:30 [a.m.] to get out here and play three holes,” Kuchar said. “But we get used to it. If these conditions stay like they are, guys are going to make a lot of birdies [in weekend rounds]. The scores are going to be pretty low.”
Although the veterans are lurking at the top of the board, one of Friday’s notable developments — other than the weather delays — involved the infusion of Colonial rookies into the weekend rounds with realistic opportunities to claim a plaid jacket.
Dallas teen phenom Jordan Spieth, 19, thrust himself into the middle of that discussion by firing a second-round 67 to reach 8 under. Fort Worth native John Peterson, 24, added his name to the list by reaching the weekend rounds at 5 under. Fellow Fort Worth native Franklin Corpening, a former TCU golfer playing in his first PGA Tour event, also secured a weekend tee time with a 2-under total through 36 holes.
But Friday’s most notable move by a Colonial rookie came from Spieth, who played his way into the weekend mix despite being assessed a one-stroke penalty when his ball moved after address on the sixth green. Even with the extra stroke on the card, Spieth said he remains satisfied with his ball-striking and his rising confidence level in his debut at Hogan’s Alley.
“Honestly, I could have shot lower than [Thursday]. I felt like I played better golf today,” said Spieth, who opened with a bogey-free 65 and has found 31 of 36 greens in regulation through two rounds. “I hit it closer to the pin. I just hit a lot of good putts that… I was certain were in the middle of the hole and, with a foot to go, they just found a way to break off. If those putts can fall, this weekend is going to be a lot of fun.”
But it was no fun having his ball move at address. After huddling with a rules official, he docked himself the necessary one-stroke penalty. Then, he stuffed a 9-iron approach within one foot of the pin at No. 7, setting up a birdie that Spieth called “the most important hole I’ve played all week.”
“I was pretty upset. More upset than I normally get,” Spieth said, reflecting on the ruling at No. 6. “After that bogey, to get a ‘3’ there was very important in keeping the round going.”
Spieth, who tied for 16th at the 2010 HP Byron Nelson Championship while competing as a 16-year-old amateur in his PGA Tour debut, also said his improved patience has benefited him at Colonial.
“There were a couple of times where I told my caddie that my 16-year-old self is rolling over in his grave,” Spieth said. “Bouncing back has been something that I’ve improved on over the years.”
Spieth finished Friday in a tie for third, with Palmer, Josh Teater and Steve Flesch, the 2004 Colonial champ. Among that group, only Palmer can improve his score in Saturday’s suspended round.
Among Friday’s happiest finishers was Peterson, a Paschal High School graduate who grew up playing at Colonial and stood in a tie for 19th, when play was suspended.
“I’m going to be a little more aggressive this weekend,” Peterson said after a second-round 71. “I was kind of tentative [Friday] and I think it hurt me. I expect to play well and have a chance on Sunday.”
So do Kuchar, Palmer and a lot of golfers who will be completing their suspended second rounds Saturday morning.