CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) - Defending champion Jordan Spieth took the scenic route to a four-under par 67 at Carnoustie on Friday that put the American right in the mix to keep hold of the Claret Jug.
After two rounds Spieth is tied for 11th, three shots behind house mates Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner.
In terms of fairways hit, however, the 24-year-old Texan languishes down in 100th place having missed half of them.
Scrambling skills that would have done Spanish great Seve Ballesteros proud and his dead-eye putting came to the rescue on Friday with Spieth admitting he plotted alternative routes to the pin.
“Yeah I do (enjoy it), three-times major champion Spieth told reporters. “I’d certainly rather play boring golf, but missing in the right places, I kind of take a pride in.
“I think if I focus more on the middle of the fairways, I’d probably hit more fairways, but I’d also end up, probably if I did miss it, in the wrong spot. Out here with the firm fairways, you’ve got to really pick and choose what you’re going to do.
“Are you going to trust down the center of the fairway, or are you going to protect a little bit? I love the imagination needed over here.”
Spieth began the day one one-over after dropping four shots in his last four holes on Thursday, but started heading up the leaderboard with a stroke of magic on the third — chipping in from off the green for a birdie.
Another birdie followed on the fifth but it was at the par-four 10th where Spieth’s round caught fire.
Once again his tee shot went left, passing though the legs of a spectator and coming to rest in wispy rough near a tree.
He took out his eight-iron and produced a soaring approach to eight feet, then rolled in his putt for an audacious birdie.
“Walking up, I thought I was in big trouble, no swing, right in the trees, based on the way the crowd was moving around the tree,” Spieth said.
“But in the air, I knew it was on a line that was going to be on the green and most likely a par, which is all I was looking for.”
He seized the momentum to birdie the short par-four 11th and made up another shot at the par-five 14th to move to within two of the lead, before another wayward tee shot and a duffed chip cost him a bogey on 16.
Compared to how he finished his first round Spieth was more than happy to negotiate the daunting closing holes with no further damage and his name lurking on the leaderboard.
“One-over on the last four certainly beat yesterday,” Spieth, who endeared himself to the galleries by throwing the odd ball to young fans calling his name, said.
“So very happy to be back in the tournament.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond