AP Golf Writer
PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — Will MacKenzie said his putter saved him Friday at the Valspar Championship, where he had a 4-under 67 to take the early lead in the second round.
The weather cooperated for part of the morning.
Mackenzie made his fifth and final birdie on the 18th hole just as the wind was starting to gust across the tree-lined course. He played in enough of it to be thankful he was done on a Copperhead course at Innisbrook that is tough even in calm conditions.
“Every shot is important, every shot is tough,” said MacKenzie, who was at 5-under 137. “Even your wedge shot from 106 (yards) can be playing right at 120 or it can be playing 85 depending on the wind.”
That’s what Jordan Spieth was facing.
The world’s No. 1 player got the worst of the wind Thursday morning in his round of 76 that left him in jeopardy of missing the cut. Spieth had to deal with it again Friday afternoon, and he was hovering around the cut line as he made the turn.
Mackenzie was two shots clear of a large group that included a pair of Augusta, Georgia, natives who need to win to get into the Masters. Charles Howell III had a 72 and Scott Brown was among the leaders until a late double bogey led to a 69.
“We were trying to play fast enough to get in there before (the wind) picked up,” Brown said. We didn’t make it. It was blowing around pretty good and it will make scoring very tough.”
They were at 139 along with Ryan Moore and former Innisbrook winner Retief Goosen, who each shot 69.
Also in that group was Justin Thomas, whose round began with a shot out of the trees curved hard to the right and onto the green, and he converted a 25-foot birdie. Thomas had six birdies through 12 holes and was tied for the lead until he lost momentum with a sand wedge that came up short and into a bunker on the par-5 fifth hole, leading to a bogey.
Harris English (74) and Webb Simpson (77) both were likely to miss the cut and could not move up in the world ranking to qualify for the Dell Match Play in two weeks.