The stars came out Friday at the PGA Championship, as Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson and Jason Day made runs up the leaderboard.
But by the end of the day, the leaders were Jimmy Walker and Robert Streb at nine-under par, two shots ahead of Day and Emiliano Grillo.
The leaders tied the record for the lowest two-round score at the PGA Championship, and Streb, a 29-year-old American ranked 74th, equaled the lowest round at a major with a 63. He is the third golfer in the past two majors to have a 63, following Phil Mickelson and Stenson, who did it two weeks ago at the British Open.
Everything was working for Walker until he drove his tee shot on the 17th hole onto a shopping pavilion.
Fans scampered, beers in hand. The ball came to rest along a carpeted porch in front of a corporate hospitality suite. Naturally, onlookers wanted Walker to play it from where it lay.
“We’re going to pick up the ball,” Andy Sanders, Walker’s caddie, said.
Fans booed playfully, and Sanders smiled.
With an opportunity to replace the ball back onto the rough without penalty, though, Walker was not going to risk any trick shots.
Possibly shaken by his errant tee shot, Walker faltered down the stretch, failing to capitalize on the course’s only two par-5s, Nos. 17 and 18, and even bogeying the final hole to end his round.
Perhaps he heard Day, the defending champion, coming. After a double bogey on the seventh hole, Day birdied seven of his next eight holes. With a 63 of his own in play, he too was unable to capitalize on the closing par-5s, finishing with a 65.
Stenson, the winner of the British Open, remained hot despite the whirlwind that typically arrives after winning a first major championship. With consecutive 67s, Stenson was at 6-under.
Starting on the back nine Friday, Stenson bogeyed the 12th and 13th holes, but he eagled the 18th after hitting his second shot from 260 yards to within 3 feet of the cup. He tapped in for the easy three, and his round was off and running.
Playing the front nine from there, Stenson birdied the first, third and eighth holes to take the lead from Walker.
Spieth also zoomed up the leaderboard Friday with a dazzling opening nine holes. But after some controversy following an errant tee shot that landed in a small puddle on the seventh, his momentum waned on his back nine. His second-round 67 put him at 3-under.
Spieth’s play in the morning represented the first spark of electricity this week at Baltusrol Golf Club. After shooting a humdrum par 70 on Thursday, Spieth knew he needed to take advantage of the course’s softer conditions after a dousing of rain overnight.
Play was delayed for 45 minutes in the morning as the rain slowly tapered off and the course drained. Once the sun emerged, those fortunate enough to tee off in the morning could get to work.
Spieth birdied the 10th and 11th holes out of the gate, setting himself up to take advantage of Nos. 17 and 18. He birdied both, zipping into a tie for second place at 4-under.
Controversy arrived on the seventh hole. Spieth, who had been driving the ball well, left his tee shot hang to the right on the brutally long dogleg par-4. The ball wound up resting in a puddle on a cart path, without a particularly clear angle to the green.
After conferring with a rules official for about 15 minutes, Spieth opted to take the drop from the standing water but elected not to move the ball off the cart path, because that offered the best view of his target.
“It was really weird,” Spieth said. “It was as complicated as I’ve ever really had it. Took about as much time as I’ve ever taken on a free drop.”
Despite the hazard, his second shot was struck cleanly and sailed just over the green. Still, with an opportunity to make par, Spieth wound up hitting his flop shot well short. A 25-foot putt missed, and he dropped another stroke on the same hole where he had a double bogey Thursday.
“Just don’t hit it right on No. 7,” Spieth said. “I have done it two days in a row.”
Spieth lipped out a birdie putt on the ninth to finish the round at 3-under. Afterward, he bemoaned his putting.
“I just need to find a nice rhythm with my putting stroke,” Spieth said. “That’s next.”
The galleries surrounding Spieth’s group were sizable, but it would be tough to beat Andrew Johnston in a popularity contest this week. A gregarious Englishman better known as Beef, Johnston was easy to find on the course. Just follow the sounds of fans yelling a low, droll, “Beef! ”
Johnston soaked up the attention, nodding and smiling and pointing at every mention of his nickname. Fans were making plans to attract his attention.
“When he putts it, we’ll yell, ‘Beef,’ ” two fans holding beverages whispered to each other at the sixth green. “And then when he looks at us, we’ll chug.”
Buoyed by the energy, Johnston scored three early birdies and moved into contention in the morning. But he bogeyed the fifth and seventh holes, dropping back and finishing at 1 under.
“So nice to see, like, the variation of people shouting — like little kids up to grown men, grown women,” Johnston said. “It’s just great, man.”