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With the overnight leader heading in the wrong direction in the second round of the 2022 Zozo Championship, the door was swung wide open for a number of candidates to put their claim on this championship. Andrew Putnam was the man who marched through first as the 33-year-old was simply brilliant around Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on Friday.
Signing for an 8-under 62, Putnam secured not only a new course record — which was later bested by John Huh’s 61 — but also a share of the 36-hole lead at 10 under. Beginning the day with two straight birdies, he added birdies on the par-3 fifth and par-4 eighth to turn in 4-under 30. Four additional birdies on his inward half were all he needed to claim the new low score around Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, but it was nearly one less as he experienced a brutal lip-out for eagle on his final hole of the day.
One worse than Putnam on the day was fan-favorite Rickie Fowler who carded a 7-under 63 to share the lead at the halfway point. Coming off a short week at the Shriners Children’s Open, the five-time PGA Tour winner is still clearly working through swing changes, but Friday did mark his first bogey-free effort of the young season.
A big step in the right direction, Fowler will need to continue to play in this manner if he is to overtake Putnam and fend off Keegan Bradley, Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland — all of whom are currently inside the top 10.
T1. Andrew Putnam, Rickie Fowler (-10)
The question heading into the weekend is whether Fowler can continue to drive the golf ball the way he currently is. Losing nearly four strokes off-the-tee at TPC Summerlin a week ago, the 33-year-old struggled with a two-way miss and was left scrambling more times than not in the desert.
It has been a completely different story through 36 holes as he ranks 12th in driving accuracy having connected on nearly 66% of the fairways. With a necessity of playing approach shots from the short grass, Fowler understands the importance the big stick holds moving forward.
“I need to drive it well around this place, which like I said, I’ve managed my way with what I’ve had the first two days, but looking forward to a little bit of work and tighten that up,” Fowler said. “Yeah, just continue to have fun on this golf course and hopefully I’m playing from the fairway.”
Rolling it ????@RickieFowler gets to -10 and a tie for the lead @ZOZOCHAMP. pic.twitter.com/IDbPXNKtgn
3. Keegan Bradley (-9)
4. John Huh (-8)
5. Keita Nakajima (-7)
T6. Matthew NeSmith, Sam Ryder (-6)
T8. Adam Schenk, Collin Morikawa, Joel Dahmen, Viktor Hovland, Luke List (-5)
It was an impressive bounce back for Morikawa in the second round as he signed for a 6-under 64 to catapult his name into contention. Earlier in the week, he mentioned the effects of jet lag having only been in Japan for 30 hours before the onset of the tournament and admittingly looked sluggish in the first round.
He now appears to be back to his normal self and having experienced a winless 2021-22 campaign, he will relish the opportunity to get off the schneid and back into the winner’s circle. The world No. 9 ranks second in driving accuracy and fifth in greens in regulation through the first two rounds and it is hard to imagine his reliable ball-striking going anywhere over the weekend.
Ideally, the ball will be played down in the second half of this tournament as Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club continues to dry out from previous rain. This puts an added importance on ball-striking as around-the-green play will prove to be more difficult and greens will firm up.
With this in mind, Morikawa makes a ton of sense at 14-1 which is roughly the same as his pre-tournament price. As mentioned, he is driving it beautifully and his iron play looks like peak Morikawa which makes him ultra dangerous as a chaser. The two-time major champion stands alongside a potential long shot option in Luke List at 5 under who possesses a similar skillset and is listed at 55-1 if looking for a bit more juice for your squeeze.
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