Kim finds putting key, leads Deere by 4

Writing from Silvis, Illinois

Friday, July 13, 2018

Michael Kim can handle the heat.

At least on Friday, when it was possible to grow orchids at TPC Deere Run.

Under stifling conditions most of the day, Kim poured in eight birdies across 17 holes before play was stopped for the day with a thunderstorm on the doorstep of the course.

He’s at 16-under through 35 holes needing to save par from right of the 18th green when play resumes Saturday morning to finish at 16-under 126 with 23 players left to finish their rounds.

Kim’s two-for-two making the cut in the Deere, but hasn’t threatened. Now, he’s threatening. Seventeen birdies in 35 holes – with only 51 putts – indicate that.

What’s the difference in his putting?

“I think it’s more of a mental thing for me,” Kim said. “Thursday morning just warming up I kind of found a little mental note with me, and it’s been working for me so far.”

That’s quite a find. It could pay off to the tune of $1,044,000 if he wins, along with the two-year exemption and other baubles bestowed on a PGA Tour winner. His plan is simple.

“Just ignore the leader board as much as you can, ignore the scores,” Kim said. “Just me and the golf course. I think that’s how I’m going to take it for the next two days.”

Meanwhile, first-round leader Steve Wheatcroft added a 68 to his opening 62 and is at 12-under 130, a total matched by Canadian David Hearn, who lost to Jordan Spieth in a three-way playoff five years ago, and Johnson Wagner.

Wheatcroft finished before the first of the two weather delays, and was in the cauldron for over four hours. He drank everything he could to stay hydrated and still looked beet red after the round.

“Probably 20 ounces of water (on each of) the first 12 holes, and started to feel myself cramping up still,” Wheatcroft said. “This is one of the hottest days I’ve ever played golf in.”

Hearn was on the verge of winning at Deere Run in 2013, but missed a birdie putt on the third hole of a sudden-death playoff. Spieth and Zach Johnson had their hats off, ready to shake hands. Two holes later, Spieth was the winner at age 19.

Friday, there was a bit of controversy with Hearn, who has gone back to a long putter. After his round of 7-under 64, a Tour official asked him to come to the putting green and demonstrate his putting stroke to make sure he wasn’t anchoring it against his chest, which is now verboten in the Rules of Golf. No violation was found.

“I guess I’m putting too well,” Hearn said. “They were asking me about the way I’m doing it and I can say with certainty I’m not anchoring the putter.”

If the ruling was different, he would have gone from four off the lead to down the highway via disqualification. Perhaps that 1 1/2 inches he’d cut off the putter some time back made the difference.

Wagner added a 66 to an opening 64 for his 130. He had three straight top-seven finishes here before missing the cut last year.

“I just think I’ve done a good job of hitting fairways,” Wagner said. “I had some good lies and played to the smart side of the holes.”

Lurking five strokes back at 11-under are Brunson Burgoon, who has three holes remaining, Matt Jones, who has finished, and Deere rookie Francesco Molinari, who had not only finished but won his previous start, the Quicken Loans National, a fortnight ago.

“The game is still there,” Molinari said. “I think I can hit my irons a little bit better, especially the wedges. Yesterday and today has been okay but not great, so there’s room for improvement.”

Maybe Molinari isn’t lurking after all. Maybe he’s the real leader once the pedigrees of everyone ahead of him is considered. 

Around Deere Run

Dylan Meyer’s back-to-back 69s place him at 6-under 138 and tied for 24th entering Moving Day. He’s tied with fellow Illinois alum and three-time Deere winner Steve Stricker, the 51-year-old carding a 5-under 66. He’s two strokes ahead of last year, when he opened with 140 and finished tied for fifth at 15-under 269 via a 65-64 finish. Nick Hardy, the other Fighting Illini of note, is on the cut line of 3-under with two holes to play. ...

Danny Lee disqualified himself when he discovered he had used two different types of balls during the round. The “One-Ball Rule” means one type in any one round. Lee recently shifted from Titleist to Callaway, but it’s not known if he went to a different brand or within them, such as a Callaway Chrome to Chrome Soft or Titleist Pro V1 to Pro V1x. Lee was going to miss the cut anyway after rounds of 71 and 73 for 2-over 144. ... The cut figures to fall at 3-under 139, with 81 players on the good side of the knife. Those missing included Pekin native D.A. Points (2-under 140), who missed for the 12th time in 13 years, Deerfield’s Vince India (even-par 142), and fellow Monday qualifier Brian Bullington of Frankfort, who posted a second straight 3-over 74, the total of 148 missing the cut by nine strokes. ... 

Steven Bowditch was right: He didn’t make the cut, so the dream of Twitter-sourced caddie Elias Francque of Park Ridge ended after 36 holes. ... Those withdrawing Friday were Doug Ghim, bothered by a case of stomach flu, Jason Gore (back), Matt Every and David Berganio Jr. The heat (94 degrees with a heat index of 106) likely had something to do with it. ... The first delay lasted 49 minutes for a severe thunderstorm that skirted the course. It rained a bit after play resumed, but 48 minutes later, the curtain came down for the day. Then it poured.

Tim Cronin

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