Friday’s second round at the 2020 PGA Championship wasn’t quite as absurd as what we saw a day earlier, but it did provide us with a clearer picture of just who’s going to win this golf tournament after 36 holes. Many of the usual suspects are once again suspects at TPC Harding Park.
Brooks Koepka lurks just a couple shots behind leader Haotong Li, but so too do past major winners Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson and Jason Day. Presumed future major winners like Tommy Fleetwood and Xander Schauffele are also chasing. And they’re all looking up at Li, who leads the entire event by two strokes after an incredible effort in Round 2 (more on him in a minute).
Let’s take a look at the tremendous golf we saw Friday in San Francisco and what we can expect going into the weekend at the first major of 2020.
1. Brooksie SZN: Koepka is a menace at major championships. His worst position on the leaderboard after his last nine rounds of play at the PGA Championship is third, which is where he sits going into the weekend. After he birdied two of his first four holes on Friday, it looked as if the rout was on, but he stalled out on the back nine before getting up and down from a fairway bunker on No. 18 from 166 yards away. His knee was being worked on all day on the course by a trainer — which felt a little problematic — though he said after the round it was fine and not an issue and also not related to a balky joint that has bothered him over the last year and a half. That’s the only concern, though, as there is almost zero chance Li can withstand Koepka stomping up the leaderboard on a weekend at a major with the pressure everyone will feel over the last two days. He’s the live favorite. There’s a reason.
2. Top 10: How important is it to be in the top 10 after 36 holes of a major? With a field where every star and superstar is present, it’s massively important. In 24 of the last 25 majors, the eventual winner has come from inside the top 10 after Round 2. Unless that recent history is bucked in a big way, that means your 2020 PGA Championship winner is going to be one of the following players.
- Haotong Li
- Mike Lorenzo-Vera
- Brooks Koepka
- Daniel Berger
- Tommy Fleetwood
- Jason Day
- Justin Rose
- Cameron Champ
- Paul Casey
- Brendon Todd
3. First-timers: The list of players looking for major No. 1 fascinates me. Between Fleetwood (-6), Berger (-6) and Schauffele (-4), you have some studs who will feel a little heat late if they’re still in it. Fleetwood in particular has had some near-misses over the last few years. He flushed it all over the place on Friday en route to a tournament-low 6-under 64, and it would be great to get the same performance on either Saturday or Sunday.
4. Li is going to be a show: Adam Scott’s quote on Li, who somehow hit just four fairways on Friday but still shot 65, tells me that nobody knows what the weekend holds. Still, it’s going to be a hell of an entertaining thing, especially after Li emptied the tank on the range on Friday evening. “I haven’t played that much with him, but he’s got all the weapons in the bag,” said Scott. “I guess I’d call it erratic, but he’s got all the tools, as you see through two rounds here. … He’s got the arsenal to take it low and play, but we don’t see that kind of consistency out of him, and that probably matches his personality a little bit. He’s young, though, that’s the kind of golf he plays. He plays pretty much all guns blazing, and when it comes off, it’s really good.”
5. The wild card? Matthew Wolff is quietly 3 under, five back of Li and leading the field in strokes gained from tee to green. His putting has been absolutely atrocious thus far, and while I’m not sure he’s ready to win his first major championship, he’s somebody who could pop with an early 31 on the front nine to grab a share of the lead going to the back half of the day. I’m very intrigued by his statistical profile and where he sits on the board.
6. The Fowler failure: We touched on this a bit earlier, but it became official a few hours later. Rickie Fowler missed the cut by one stroke after hitting a 6-inch bogey putt 1 inch. Those are real Shotlink numbers, and I promise you the video is much worse than the text.
7. Beware of the great putting performance: Normally, only elite tee-to-green performances foreshadow weekend success. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the four players on the board who have had the most success putting so far are Li, Lorenzo-Vera, Todd and Rose. That probably means they don’t have staying power over the final 36, which is good news if you’re Koepka or Fleetwood.
8. Rory was on the Spieth roller coaster ride: How about Rory McIlroy’s ride on Friday. He birdied the first, made two bogeys, got his ball stepped on and embedded, made four birdies in a row and capped it all off with a triple bogey on the 12th that completely took him out of the tournament. Like Tiger Woods, the afternoon presented him an opportunity to make a move and really get into the mix late in Round 2, but the triple was a dagger. This will now be the sixth straight season that will end without McIlroy winning a major. An unthinkable number this time in 2014.
9. Different boards: As Andy Johnson pointed out on Friday, this year’s 36-hole leaderboard looks a lot different than the one we saw last year. Last year, Koepka had already run away with the Wanamaker on Friday night. This year, if you believe Li is going to fall off the map on Saturday and that the real lead is 6 under, there are 42 players within five of that lead. That means the third round on Saturday is going to be wilder than it feels.