With Brandt Snedeker being the highest-rated golfer in the field at the 2013 FedEx St. Jude Classic this weekend at TPC Southwind in Memphis, a reasonable prediction of the early leaders would have been anyone's guess.
I'm not sure anyone quite expected the leaderboard we have after Day 2.
Harris English followed up his opening-round 66 by shaving two strokes off his scorecard, posting a six-under 64 to take sole possession of the lead heading into the weekend.
Behind him, Shawn Stefani sits alone in second place at eight-under, while Paul Haley II and Scott Stallings will both be in the top five heading into the weekend in Memphis.
The tournament's official Twitter account posted the news of English's lead after two rounds and made a connection between the two-round leader with his upbringing right down the road:
Here's a look at a partial leaderboard after Friday's action ended at TPC Southwind.
*Note: For a complete look at the 2013 FedEx St. Jude Classic leaderboard, click here (via PGATour.com).
|Pos||Player||Rd 1||Rd 2||To Par|
|T3||Paul Haley II||67||68||-5|
|T5||Davis Love III||66||70||-4|
|T5||Doug LaBelle II||70||66||-4|
Note: All statistics and video are courtesy of PGATour.com.
While there's plenty of golfers in contention during this final tuneup before Merion and the U.S. Open next weekend, the story of the day belongs to the two men sitting atop the leaderboard after two rounds.
English was one of the tournament's co-leaders at four-under after the opening day, but he roared through the course and finished six-under during his second round on Friday, earning low-score honors and holding a two-stroke lead over the field heading into the weekend's action.
After posting five birdies, an eagle and suffering through only one bogey on his final hole of the day, English has shown consistency and stands to earn his best finish on Tour in his career with more of the same on the final two days
As noted by ESPN's Justin Ray, though, this is the first PGA Tour tournament English has ever led:
Harris English: has never held outright lead after any round on @PGATOUR - he has 2 shot clubhouse lead at moment.— Justin Ray (@JRayESPNGolf) June 7, 2013
Stefani is also grabbing headlines as an early contender, and his alma mater showed no shortage of support after he found himself just two strokes behind English heading into Saturday's Round 3 action:
Former Lamar golfer Shawn Stefani closes with two birdies Friday and is alone in 2nd place heading into the weekend of the St. Jude Classic.— Lamar Cardinals (@LamarCards) June 7, 2013
Davis Love III followed up his strong Thursday round with an even-par round on Friday, and although he didn't make up any ground on the three men ahead of him on the leaderboard, he's in a comfortable position for the stretch run this weekend.
Here's Love III on No. 9, chipping a nice shot close to the hole before tapping in for birdie:
Love III is tied with a slew of other golfers right there at four-under, including Justin Hicks and Doug LaBelle II. LaBelle posted one of the best scores of the afternoon on Friday, too, shooting a four-under 66 after he opened the tournament with an even round on Thursday.
Dustin Johnson and Ian Poulter headline those sitting at tied for 10th, and both are due for some solid golf after missing out at both of their last two tournaments. Johnson (Players Championship, Memorial Tournament) and Poulter (Masters and Players) have missed the cut to date, but are both in position to put some of those demons to rest heading into the next Major tournament.
After a strong start on Friday, Poulter faded down the stretch some with three bogeys in his final eight holes, but still managed to shoot a two-under 68 and put himself in position to strike if English or the other leaders skip a beat over the final two days.
Here's Poulter on No. 10:
Check out some other storylines to follow below.
He came into the tournament as one of the favorites, but Brandt Snedeker couldn't gain his footing on Friday and ended up dropping all the way back to three-over—right outside the cutline of one-over par.
Starting on the back nine, the top-10 PGA Tour pro struggled to gain his footing at TPC Southwind on Friday, posting two double bogeys in the round and finishing with more holes in the red (four) than in the black (three).
While it doesn't bode well for his status as a favorite at Merion next week, Snedeker has been hot and cold all season. He was cut at the Houston Open before finding his footing enough to contend with the leaders on Sunday at Augusta, and it's far too early to count him out next week after two days of added rest.
Lefty Stays Alive
If anyone needs a string of good golf this weekend, it's Phil Mickelson.
The lefty has struggled mightily since the Masters, missing the cut at the Players Championship after posting a tied for 54th mark at Augusta this year. He did finish third at Wells Fargo, but with the U.S. Open coming up, Mickelson needs good golf, and he needs it quick.
That's what he got on Friday.
Here's Mickelson on No. 14, bringing home one of his four birdies (to one bogey) on the afternoon:
Posting a three-under mark, and doing so to stay right outside the leaderboard at two-under overall, this is exactly the kind of golf Mickelson needs without the big names to keep him tied down and the field wide-open heading into the weekend.
Keep an eye on this major champ the rest of the way—he certainly earned it over the course of his career.
We'll see if one of these noted professionals makes a late push in Memphis this weekend, or if a no-name golfer strikes and gains some steam heading into Merion next weekend.