Jordan Spieth counting his blessings at Tour Championship

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Never know when you might get ambushed by an old fond memory, like that of a first kiss or a first car or of Jordan Spieth putting together an unspectacular, but at least solid, round at East Lake.

On Friday, up popped Spieth – you remember him, right, from such hits as the 2015 FedEx Cup championship? While not the best use of six birdies, his 67 was still a darn sight better than anything seen here from him lately. It left him at 8 under, tied for tenth.

The three-time major champion, seemingly in our golf consciousness forever but still is only 28, is topping off a partial comeback here this week. The fact that Spieth is at East Lake in the company of the 30 best of 2021 speaks to the strides he has made. And please be patient because that means his story also is heavily dependent upon the word “since.” This, after all, was the year he posted his first victory (the Valero Texas Open) since 2017, had his highest finish at a major (second, British Open) since that same year. His troubles have been mirrored by his absence at East Lake, this being his first time he made it through to the playoff finale since, you guessed it, 2017.

It was a happy Spieth speaking after the round, not only for the score he posted but also for the public revelation that he and his wife, Annie, were expecting their first child.

Important kid stuff first: “It’s old news for me, but yeah, eventually Annie was going to show, and people were going to know,” Spieth said. “We weren’t like hiding or anything like that, it was just more private life. But, yeah, very excited. She feels great, that’s the No. 1 priority, and everything’s going smoothly.” He said she’s due in late November.

Then, on to golf, and a round whose highlight was a near ace on the par-3 11th, when he hit to two inches. It was a day that Spieth could have gained some real ground if not for the three bogeys that interfered. Still, overall, Friday left Spieth nothing but hopeful.

“I thought I turned a 5-under round into 1 yesterday. And I thought I turned a 6 under into 3 today, which is a really good sign,” he said.

He went on to explain this crazy train of thought: “I’ve learned to really be excited about that because I normally get the most out of my rounds, and when I’m playing really well and just not quite scoring, typically the scoring follows.”

Reed’s scorecard on mend, too

Patrick Reed told us he was feeling better every day after his recent, very serious, bout with double pneumonia. And he has the proof: Golf’s version of the vaccination card, the scorecard.

While he faded on the back nine Thursday – 2 over on the way to a 72 – he rallied Friday. On the strength of going 2 under on the back, Reed finished the day with a 69.

Not all aces this day for English

Golf gives and it takes. On Thursday, former Georgia golfer Harris English put together a stress-free 66, underpinned by the first-ever Tour Championship hole-in-one on No. 15.

On Friday, the route to a 69, which left him at an adjusted 9 under, eight off the lead, was strewn with five bogeys. He was grinding from beginning to end.

“It’s one of the things, you hit it in the rough a little bit, and then you can’t really hit the green (he hit eight of 14 fairways). But I still like my spot. It looks like they’re kind of running away with it, (Patrick) Cantlay and (Jon) Rahm, so hopefully I can come out and get a low one tomorrow and get back in it.”

High round/low round

No real calamities out there Friday, with both Collin Morikawa and Erik van Rooyen shooting 73 for the day’s high score. At the other end lived small redemption for Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama. Here is the reason that after a really bad round you don’t break all your clubs, burn your bag and take up mahjong. There’s always the next day. Having gone high Thursday, Matsuyama matched Jon Rahm’s 65 on Friday.

First-hole blues

East Lake made a harsh first impression Friday. No. 1 played the hardest of the day, at an average of 4.40. There was but one birdie there in the second round. That by Viktor Hovland (requiring a 31-foot, big-breaking, downhill putt), while more than a third of the field - 11 players - took bogey.