Relying on his otherworldly short game, defending champion Zach Johnson fired a bogey-free 5-under par 66 in the second-round of the John Deere Classic on Friday to maintain a share of the lead and continue to grab most of the attention here this week at TPC Deere Run.
Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover and PGA TOUR rookie Patrick Reed shot 62 and 63, respectively, to prevent the Cedar Rapids, Iowa native from running away with the tournament with which he is so closely identified. Like Johnson, both Glover and Reed received sponsor exemptions out of collegeto play the John Deere Classic from tournament director Clair Peterson, but this year all are full-fledged TOUR members. This is the first time Reed has been the leader or co-leader of a pro tournament.
Meanwhile, Australian Matt Jones, who played well last week, stood in fourth place at 11-under after a 6-under 65 while Chicago-area native Kevin Streelman was in a five-way tie for fifth at 10-under. Jerry Kelly of Madison, Wis., also at 10-under, was closer to the top of the leader board than fellow Madison-ite and three-time Deere champion Steve Stricker, who is tied for 10th at 9-under following a second-round 66.
After his 18th consecutive round in the 60s at TPC Deere Run, Johnson said his driver wasn't as sharp Friday as it was on Thursday, which put pressure on his short game. Fortunately for Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion has a short game and flat stick that respond well to such pressure.
"Today was a hard 66," Johnson said afterward. "Yesterday was a much easier 64...For the most part I just didn't drive it as well as I would have liked."
But Johnson's brilliant short game enabled himto salvage his round. He made a 6-foot putt on No. 5 to save par, pitched to a foot on the par 4 sixth again to save par, chipped in for birdie on No. 8 and made what he called his "best" par save of the day on No. 15 when he chipped it to six feet out of a bad lie and made par.
"My short game was tremendous,"Johnson said. "I putted great I chipped it probably even better. So, today was a day of hanging in there and letting things come. But I like the fact that I don't have to be perfect and I can still play here."
Starting on the back nine in the morning's first group, Reed shot 4-under 32 with an eagle 3 on the par 5 17th before making four birdies and no bogeys on the front nine to reach 12-under.
After a missed the cut in last week's PGA TOUR event at Greenbrier, Reed said he benefitted from both the rest and a little extra motivation.
"You don't want to miss two in a row, that's for sure," said Reed, who played here last year on a sponsor exemption but missed the cut. "But, especially later on in the season, if you miss a cut, you get to go to the [next] event earlier, get a little bit of rest and you get to make sure you're really refreshed for the next week. That's key out here."
In his last 27 holes Reed has been an outstanding 13-under par, which he attributes to his having adjusted to the greens at TPC Deere Run. "It was just speed," he said. "I almost felt like I was going to beat myself with my putter if I didn't adjust. I was consistently short the first six or seven holes. I just felt like, just see the hole, be about a foot farther than is really is, and it happened to work."
Glover, winner of the 2009 U.S. Open, made nine birdies and no bogeys en route to his 9-under 62, a six-shot improvement over his first-round score.
Originally, Glover had not planned to play the John Deere Classic but decided to do so after playing poorly last week at Greenbrier. He has made only nine of 18 possible cuts this season.
"I had planned to take the week off and head over to the British Open tomorrow," Glover said. "I got done at the Greenbrier after playing poorly and my wife said, I think you ought to go [to the John Deere], and I said, I'm glad you said that because I was thinking the same thing."
The proud Clemson golfer attributed his fine play to improvements with the putter. "I've been hitting the ball good. It was just a little adjustment putting...just some alignment things putting, and it clicked," Glover said.
The cut-line fell at 4-under par and several big names made it on the number, including Keegan Bradley, Davis Love III and former Masters champion Mike Weir. Also making the cut were sponsor exemptions Jordan Spieth and Scott Langley, both tied for 19th at 7-under, and Stanford's Patrick Rodgers at 6-under. Ryo Ishikawa, the aspiring star from Japan, made the cut and is in a tie for 36th with Nick Watney, Ryan Moore and past champion Jonathan Byrd. Former Illini Joe Affrunti, at 6-under, also made it.
Not playing the weekend are the top-ranked player in the field Louis Oosthuizen, former Illini Luke Guthrie and D.A. Points, past champions John Senden and Sean O'Hair, and young sponsor exemptions Justin Thomas and Steven Ihm, both amateurs, and T.J. Vogel, who recently turned pro.