NORTON, Mass. – Danny Lee walked off the golf course after shooting a 64, signed his scorecard and talked with a couple of media members. He was one of the first players to complete his loop of TPC Boston on Friday morning, and his name was at the top of the leaderboard. Anyone who shoots 66-64 to start a tournament has the right to pump out his chest a little and feel good about things, but by the time Lee’s rental car rolled down the driveway and turned onto Route 40, his fantastic start at the 2020 Northern Trust would be forgotten.
The course, originally designed by Arnold Palmer in 2002 and updated in 2017 by Gil Hanse, became an aviary on Friday. Birdies and eagles were flying everywhere, and Scottie Scheffler and Dustin Johnson were hunting.
Scheffler set a tournament course and posted the 12th sub-60 round ever on the PGA Tour, shooting a 59 in the morning wave that included 12 birdies. He finished at 13 under. But five hours after he holed a 4-footer on the 18th green, Johnson missed a 25-footer on the same hole for a 59. He tapped in from 2 feet for a 60.
At 15-under, Johnson will take a two-shot lead over Scheffler and Cameron Davis (who had a second-round 65) into the third round of the Northern Trust. He will have a three-shot lead over Lee, Louis Oosthuizen (65) and Harris English (66).
“Today was obviously a good day on the course. I got off to a really good start and made a bunch of birdies on the front nine,” Scheffler said. “Had some key up-and-downs at the beginning of the round that kind of got me rolling, freed me up a little bit. Then the momentum just kind of kept going. I never really lost momentum, which was nice. A lot of times, when you’re playing well, you can lose that momentum toward the end of the round or have a hiccup here or there. The momentum stayed the whole time, and I made a lot of putts.”
After hitting 16 of 18 greens in regulation, Scheffler needed just 23 putts on Friday.
Johnson, who is ranked No. 4 on the Official World Golf Rankings and started the day at 4 under, surged up the leaderboard and set a front-nine tournament record by shooting 27. He made five birdies and two eagles and then birdied the next two holes to reach 11-under par for the day through 11 holes.
Had fans been lining the ropes lines and filling the bleachers, as there have been in past years, the noise would have rivaled the roars heard when the New England Patriots score at Gillette Stadium.
“Everything was going well today,” Johnson said. “Any time you’re that many under through 11 holes, you’re putting well. I made some nice putts, but also I hit some really good shots.”
After having a terrible putting day on Thursday morning, Johnson hit the practice green Thursday afternoon and found a spark using a drill that helps him position his right arm more effectively. He repeated the exercise on Friday before his round and utilized it before several putts on the course Friday. It paid off because Johnson made over 151 feet of putts in the second round and was the leader in strokes gained putting for the day, too (5.132).
Both Scheffler and Johnson said they were very aware that a 59 was possible as they came down the stretch, and they took similar approaches to handling it.
“I wouldn’t say those thoughts are negative at all,” Scheffler said. “You obviously put them in the back of your head when you’re hitting shots, but as far as thinking about (shooting 59), it’s not necessarily a negative because it encourages me to continue to make birdies.”
Johnson also wanted to attack the course and said that he was looking to make birdies on every hole, but a couple of wayward tee shots on the back nine prevented him from attacking a few flags.
If there is one shot he regrets, it is the tee shot on 18.
“I should have hit 3-wood off the tee there because I could have had 3-wood and 6-iron on the green,” Johnson said. “If I had to do over again, I’d hit a 3-wood there.”
Two rounds of 59 have never been fired on the same day at the same PGA Tour event. However, this is the second time there has been a 59 and a 60. In 2010, Paul Goydos shot 59 and Steve Stricker posted the 60 in the first round of the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run.
While plenty of low scores were posted at TPC Boston on Friday, several notable players struggled and missed the cut of 3 under (139). Jordan Spieth finished at 2 under, Tony Finau was 1 under, and Phil Mickelson, Patrick Cantlay, Gary Woodland and Bryson DeChambeau ended at even par. Collin Morikawa, the PGA Championship winner two weeks ago, struggled to a 1-over finish to miss his second career cut as a professional.