[photogallerylink id=41642 align=right]Brandt Snedeker is the leader at the Deutsche Bank Championship, a spot he didn’t imagine when he saw that his tee times coincided with the expected arrival of rain and wind from Hurricane Earl.
Turns out Snedeker, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and others might have wound up on the good side of the draw.
Snedeker picked up four birdies on the easy stretch of holes at the TPC Boston for a 7-under 64, giving him a two-shot lead over Luke Donald among the early starters Saturday.
Woods was three shots below the projected cut going into the second round, but he eliminated those concerns early with a 32 on the front nine. He made one final birdie on the par-5 18th for a 6-under 65, leaving him seven shots behind Snedeker and with renewed hopes of being able to contend on Labor Day.
Snedeker, who was at 12-under 130, expected to face vicious wind on Friday afternoon and a course under water Saturday morning. Instead, there was little wind and only moderate rain for his opening round, and a strong wind picked up halfway through the second round.
“I wasn’t liking my odds in the draw when I teed off yesterday,” he said. “That being said, I think it’s going to end up working out exactly the same. I think these guys in the afternoon are going to have the tough conditions we had yesterday afternoon.”
Donald, picked for Europe’s Ryder Cup team, shot a 67 and was at 10-under 132.
Phil Mickelson shot 65 and was in a large group at 134 that included Stewart Cink, under serious consideration as a captain’s pick for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
It was an important day for Woods, who is No. 65 in the FedEx Cup standings and needs to be among the top 70 after this week to advance to the third round of the playoffs at the BMW Championship, where he is the defending champion.
That started with making the cut, and Woods was at 5-under 137, in the middle of the pack.
“I had to shoot a good one if I was going to move on, and I was able to do that today,” Woods said. “I just felt better today. I just felt more energetic and ready to go.”
Mickelson started hitting fairways and making putts, and suddenly the debate for No. 1 has come back to life. Mickelson could go to the top of the world ranking for the first time if he finishes at least fourth and Woods is out of the top 10.
This is the 10th tournament in which Mickelson has had a mathematical chance to replace Woods at No. 1, and he hasn’t taken advantage too often. The only other time he was in contention was at Firestone, when he went into the weekend one shot behind and closed with a 78.
Lefty has not finished in the top 10 since the U.S. Open, and he missed the cut last week. But he went home to San Diego to hone his game with swing coach Butch Harmon, worked on a new driver and likes what he sees.
“I got my game dialed in, and so I was pretty excited about this week,” Mickelson said. “But again, you don’t know until you get out here, and you’ve got to shoot the numbers. Yesterday I didn’t quite post the number I wanted to, but today I was able to do that.”
Woods knew he would have to find his form quickly starting on No. 1, which is the easier portion of the TPC Boston. He had a two-putt birdie on the par-5 second, drove over the green on the par-4 fourth and got up-and-down for birdie, then added birdies on the sixth and seventh holes to take the drama out of his round.
“Considering I didn’t miss a shot for the first six holes … it was a good start,” he said.
That’s where Snedeker thrived, too. He made four birdies in a five-hole stretch, ending the run with a 7-iron to 15 feet on the sixth hole, and finishing his round with a 4-iron to 10 feet.
Snedeker is No. 53 in the standings and appears to be on his way to Chicago. The idea is to take the drama out of it, and Snedeker has had enough of that. A year ago, he needed only a bogey on the last hole to get into the final round of the playoffs at the Tour Championship, and wound up four-putting from 12 feet.
“That’s what makes the FedEx Cup great,” he said. “It has those kind of stories. You put a little bit more extra pressure on yourself than you normally should, and I learned from that last year.”