The Upshot: Grayson Murray reeled off eight birdies for round 65

JACKSON, Miss. – Notes and observations from Friday’s second round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where Grayson Murray leads by two shots.  For more from the Country Club of Jackson, check out the Daily Wrap-up.

Youth is Served

Forty-six of the top 50 players from the 2016 Tour were in the field, so it shouldn’t come as a big shock that one of them is leading after two rounds.

Murray, 23, earned his TOUR privileges as the leading money winner in last year’s Tour Finals. He won the 2016 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship on that Tour, now he’s put himself in position to chase a PGA TOUR title in just his second TOUR event.

The often brash Murray is not shy about his goals for the weekend.

“We practice to get in this position, we don’t practice to make cuts,” said Murray, who shot 7-under 65 Friday and stands at 12 under through 36 holes, two shots ahead of Greg Owen (67) and Seamus Power (69), another TOUR rookie. “My game’s good enough, I know that, and I’ve gotta keep believing that I’m good enough and that if I get in this situation enough times I’m going to crack through.”

Gorgeous weather, firm fairways, and smooth greens have combined to produce a birdie fest. Kevin Streelman made 10 birdies Thursday en route to the first-day lead at 9 under, and after opening with a bogey on the long par-3 10th hole on Friday, Murray reeled off eight birdies for his 65.

Twenty-two players are within four shots of the lead, and seventy-six players made the cut at 2 under.

Murray has started with a bogey each round, and then recovered nicely.

The key has been pounding his driver, “usually the best club in my bag when I’m swinging it well.”

That bag is holding a new driver this week, an 8.5 degree (he was playing a 9.5) Callaway Big Bertha. “I got it dialed in on Wednesday,” he said. “I felt comfortable with it, so I put it in play right away.”

Murray’s confidence in the new club was obvious on the ninth hole, his final for the day. He was holding a one-shot lead when he got to the tee, and his caddy (former Payne Stewart caddie Mike Hicks) suggested hitting hybrid to stay short of a fairway bunker.

“So I asked him how far to carry (the bunker),” Murray said. “I thought 3-wood puts me in it, and hybrid would leave me too far back, so I was like, ‘driver, man, let’s try to make birdie,’ and that’s what we did.”

Murray blasted one of his best drives of the day, down the middle, 326 yards, leaving him 89 yards to the flag on the par-4 ninth. Then he flipped a wedge to 3 feet, rolled in the putt, and now takes a two-shot lead into Saturday’s third round.

By the Numbers

Statistics have been known to lie, but when Murray says driver is his best club, he’s not kidding.

Through two rounds, he’s first in strokes gained off the tee (5.195), first in strokes gained tee to green (10.168), second in driving distance for all holes (310.0 yards), fourth in driving distance on the two measured holes (325.2), and third in driving accuracy, having hit 19 of 28 fairways.

Rough Day in the Rough

First-round leader Kevin Streelman followed his career-best round (in relation to par) of 9-under 63 with a 73 on Friday, dropping to 8 under and four shots off the lead.

Streelman did everything right Thursday, hitting 13 of 14 fairways and 17 of 18 greens during his 10-birdie binge. Friday he was all over the place, repeatedly taking whacks from CCJ’s punitive Bermuda rough. He hit just 5 of 14 fairways. He mixed in three birdies but had a double and two bogeys.

“Yesterday I drove it perfectly and kind of gave myself really short irons and wedges everywhere,” Streelman said. “Today was just enough where I was getting some really bad lies. … It’s a golf course where if you hit it in the fairway you can attack all day. If you don’t, you’re just trying to recover.”

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