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Spieth maintains lead after 69 in Round 2, Rory is eight back

CROMWELL, Conn. - Among all the skills PGA Tour players have to learn, being a maintenance man has to be right up there. Once a player gets to a certain level under par, the goal is to maintain that level or take it lower.

Jordan Spieth got to seven-under par after a first-round 63 and on Friday maintained his position, not as well as he would like, shooting 69, good enough for an eight-under 132, one up on Troy Merritt and Patrick Reed here at The Travelers Championship.

Merritt shot 68 to go with a first-round 65, while Reed scored 66 to add to a 67. At six-under par were Wesley Bryan (67-67), Daniel Summerhays (66-68), Chase Seiffert (68-66) and Boo Weekley (66-68).

Not maintaining their position from Round 1 were Johnson Wagner and Brett Stegmaier, who both shot 64 Thursday and both added 72s on Friday, each dropping 15 spots. Defending champion Russell Knox is at one-under par after rounds of 69-70, and former No. 1 player in the world Rory McIlroy was at 67-73, which was right on the 36-hole cut line of even par, a rather generous line for TPC River Highlands, which has enjoyed two ideal scoring days, although Friday featured more wind.

Among the notables to miss the cut were Jason Day (72-70), Bubba Watson (75-67), Zach Johnson (75-69) and Justin Thomas (73-72).

Spieth started on the back nine Friday morning, and made birdie at No. 12, but made double-bogey on the water-protected, par-5 13th. It wasn’t due to water, however, but a drive that went 3 feet out-of-bounds due to a double-cross, he said, on his drive into the wind. Spieth birdied 15 to make the turn to the front at even for the day. Birdies at 1 and 3, both par 4s, made it appear he was going to make another birdie run, but after a bogey at the par-3 fifth, he parred in for his one-under 69.

The old saying that it’s hard to follow a great round with another great round—as Thomas experienced Sunday at the U.S. Open—applied to Spieth on Friday. “I was just a little off today,” he said. “You know, I didn't expect to be on to the same level as a 63, but I just got a little bit, the swing was just…it's close. It was just kind of an off day, and I'm glad I was able to still shoot one under with an off round, and we'll just go back and recognize that we probably need to be close to doubling this score for the rest of the tournament in order to win. But, yeah, still in a good position.”

The Texan didn’t feel the course played much harder than Thursday, but thought his 69 might not have the lead by the end of the day. “I was able to hold it at one under, and instead of falling way back, probably be a couple back going into the weekend, but in a good spot.

“I really wanted to grab two a side. That's kind of my goal. I figured if I get two a side every nine holes that we play this week that will be 16 under, and that will win the golf tournament.

“So I came out today trying to forget about yesterday and trying to make two birdies a side. It's tough. I made a double on a birdie hole. That throws you back a few shots. Had an opportunity on the front to get to 10 under. That was our new goal. It fell just short, but in a good position. For an off day to shoot one under and hopefully that's the high score we post this week, that's where you need to hold it when you get a little off.”

So there’s the recognition of the benefit of maintaining position from Thursday. Now only the next two days will tell if another old saying holds true. Players who make the cut and contend by the back nine Sunday, usually have one of the four rounds be a little off compared to the other three. This may have been Jordan Spieth’s off round on the way to victory.

Cliff Schrock