There’s a 3-way tie for 1st heading into the weekend at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, but all eyes are on tournament host and 2-time champion Tiger Woods, who sits just 4 strokes off the lead after posting a 65 (-5) Friday to move himself into a tie for 11th. Brian Gay, Ryan Armour, and Beau Hossler are all tied for the lead at -9, uncharacteristic for a Quicken Loans tournament that regularly features winning scores in the single digits under par. Hossler and Armour, who each have rounds of 66 and 65 thus far, will be the final pairing teeing off at 1:35. Brian Gay, who played well at the US Open just 2 weeks ago (T20) will precede them with Francesco Molinari, who leads the field in greens in regulation this week at an astounding 91.67% while also hitting over 82% of fairways.
Hossler leads the PGA Tour in rounds in the 60s this season. “It’s been strong this year, I’ve had a lot of really good rounds. Unfortunately, I’ve had some kind of high ones that are uncharacteristic for me. I think that was six in a row in the 60s, so I’m feeling good, my game feels really good. I’m getting it in play nicely off the tee and I’m rolling the putter really well so that obviously helps,” Hossler told the media after his round. On his thoughts heading into the weekend, the UT Austin product said, “Just keep doing what I’m doing. I feel good. I mean, the course is scorable, I doubt that 9 under will be leading. Like I said, perfect shape so you could get it rolling with the putter, and with how hot it is, it’s not playing particularly long. I would expect to be in contention heading in and look forward to it.” The 23-year-old turned pro in 2016, and has made 19 of 22 cuts this year. He lost in a sudden death playoff to Ian Poulter in April at the Houston Open.
Brian Gay noted that the course is playing a bit easier from last year- with more receptive greens but still the plush roughs fans have grown accustomed to at TPC Potomac. “Well, it’s obviously much softer. The rough’s about the same, so you still got to be in the fairway, so it’s playing longer. But the greens are receptive, so if you get it in the fairway, you know, last year it was a chore just to get it on the green from the fairway because they were a little faster. So if you’re in the fairway, you can, you know, be a little bit more aggressive into the greens this year.”
Coincidentally, Gay played his 1st 2 rounds with Ryan Armour, who is also tied for the lead. Asked how they have benefited from the pairing, Gay said “Yeah, we always have a good time playing together. Like you said, we hit it the same distance and we’re not bombers out here by any stretch, so we’re kind of playing in the same areas, hitting a lot of the same clubs on the par 3s, so it works pretty good.” The 46-year-old is 13th this season in driving accuracy but has struggled to keep up with the long hitters on Tour. He ranks outside the top 100 in GIR, strokes gained: off the tee and driving distance. However, he’s 29th in SG: around the green and 32nd in putting. After a poor day on the greens Thursday, his 1.630 average puts him at 11th best among the field heading into Saturday.
Ryan Armour, who at 42-years-old snagged his first career win on Tour at the Sanderson Farms Championship this season, is in contention at -9 as well. Like Gay, he too has struggled to compete with the long hitters on Tour this season. But playing with Gay helped him as well, telling the media, “Well, I mean, Brian got off to such a hot start, you were just trying to keep up. I don’t know, I know he shot 5 or 6 on the front nine maybe, or our front nine, which is the back. It just seemed like he was birdieing every hole. So you were just trying not to fall too far behind him and if you do that, you probably were up near the lead.” Armour has putted poorly this season (165th in SG: putting) but is T17 at Quicken Loans National. At 2nd this week in proximity to the hole, Armour could make some noise this weekend if he can continue to hit the fairway.
But the crowds this week have gravitated to Tiger Woods, who looks on the prowl to win his first tournament since 2013 when he captured his 8th WGC-Bridgestone trophy. With stats like 5th in strokes gained: tee-to-green and 6th in SG: total, many fans ad analysts agree that Tiger has the tools to win this season. He already sports a T2 at the Valspar Championship, a T5 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and tied for 11th at TPC Sawgrass for The Players Championship. Following his round of 65, Tiger told the press, “I was happy with it [the 65]. I basically had one bad hole with a nice little three-putt at 17. But overall, the hole-out there at 18 and hitting the ball as well as I did for most of the day and I made a few putts, which was nice. Overall, I just thought that something in the mid to high 60s would have been a good score and I was able to shoot that.” Woods will go off with Joel Dahmen at 12:25pm, just 7 groups away from the final pairing. Asked if he think he can win this week, the 79-time-winner replied, “I think as the years progress, I think I’m not that far away from putting it together where I can win. Right now I’m only 4 back. The scores aren’t going to be that low, the golf course is getting a little bit more difficult. Again, just be patient with it and a long way to go.”
The Wrightway Network will continue it’s live coverage of the Quicken Loans National from TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm throughout the weekend on Instagram and Facebook. Also note that we will be live next week for weekend coverage in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia for “A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier”, where Phil Mickelson and 3-time winner on tour this season Bubba Watson will headline.