(Reuters) - American Steve Stricker is skipping the British Open, but he has the John Deere Classic in his sights after a strong second round in Silvis, Illinois on Friday.
Stricker, helped by a tip from his caddie, stormed home with five birdies on his inward half for a six-under-par 65 at TPC John Deere Run.
He recorded a nine-under 133 halfway total, three strokes behind American leader William McGirt (66) with half the field back in the clubhouse.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth jumped into contention with a 64 to edge within five strokes of the lead.
Stricker, 47, struggled early but he got back on track after pulling his drive at the 13th hole, his fourth.
Caddie Jimmy Johnson observed that Stricker had the ball a “bit too far forward” in his set-up, so he made a minor adjustment and generally played much better after that.
“At times I didn’t think it was going to happen and then the second nine I really started to do some nice things,” Stricker told Golf Channel.
“There were a couple of nice saves that kept the momentum going too.”
World number 19 Stricker considers himself a part-time golfer these days. He is playing only his ninth tournament of the year, and has pulled out of next week’s British Open, the second successive year he will skip the major championship.
“I’m cutting back,” said the 12-time PGA Tour winner. “My expectations are still high and yet I’m much more casual about the game and I’m having more fun with it and I think that helps me in some ways but I still want to play well and I expect to play well.”
McGirt finally cracked the code of the greens to take the lead.
“I’ve played well the last two years and missed the cut by a shot,” he said. “This is the first year I’ve made any putts. Hopefully it keeps up for another two days.”
“I don’t find it that easy but guys always find a way to shoot 20-under-par out here. Staying aggressive is the key out here.”
McGirt, 35, has missed more cuts than he has made over the past four months, in the process slipping to 96th on the PGA Tour’s points list and 181st in the world rankings.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina,; Editing by Gene Cherry