Casey joins Byron Nelson leaderboard logjam with a 27 back-9

5/16/2014

By Bill Nichols

By Bill Nichols

The Dallas Morning News

IRVING, Texas (MCT) — It had been a while since Paul Casey shot a nine-hole score of 27.

Like, never.

But on a calm Friday perfect for scoring, anything seemed possible, including Casey's 27 that matched the PGA Tour record for best back-nine score.

His 63 at the TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas put him in a tie for second, two strokes behind Brendon Todd, midway through the HP Byron Nelson Championship.

The benign conditions sent confidence levels soaring and scores plummeting at the TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas. All sorts of players were lured upward, regardless of rank or age.

You had 28-year-old Todd shooting 64 to stand 8-under 132. And you had 44-year-old Tim Herron shooting 66 to join the eight-man pileup at 134, along with Martin Kaymer, Graham DeLaet, Mike Weir, Charles Howell III, Morgan Hoffman, Marc Leishman.

You had seven international players among the top 14, and you had Dallas' Jordan Spieth shooting 67 to join five others at 3-under 137, tied for 19th. And you had Highland Park senior Scottie Scheffler making the cut as Spieth did in 2010 at age 16.

And you had major champions Weir, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington and Louis Oosthuizen moving into contention.

For fans, its best-case scenario entering the weekend with marquee names on the board, chamber of commerce weather and 24 players within five strokes of the lead.

"You gotta expect some of them to go low, so the scores are going to get deeper and deeper," said Spieth, who had four birdies and one bogey. "It's going to take a couple of special rounds to pull it off, but I'm still in it. To be only five off the lead through two rounds, I think I'm in a good spot."

Casey, trying to regain the form that allowed him to reach world No. 3 in 2009, was simply hoping to make the cut after playing the first six holes in 2 over. Even his eagle at the par-5 No. 7 was tempered by a bogey on 9.

But on the back side, it seemed the Iron Byron swing robot had occupied his body.

He birdied 10, 11, 13 and 14, eagled the par-5 16th and then birdied 18. The hardest part about playing the back side in 7 under was totaling the score.

"When my caddie told me, walking off 18, he was struggling to add it up," Casey said. "He said, 'I think that's 28.' Genuinely, I had no concept of what I was doing out there."

Reporters wanted to know if he had entered the zone, and if so, how do you get there?

"The seal was broken when I got to 10 and it spiraled from there," Casey said. "I had no concept of the score, I was still very much focused on trying to guarantee I was playing the weekend and then trying to give myself as long a line as possible."

The 27 was one off the nine-hole PGA Tour scoring mark set by Corey Pavin on the front nine at the 2006 U.S. Bank Championship.

"It wasn't like it was the best ball striking round you've ever seen," said Casey, who has 13 wins overseas and one on the PGA Tour (2009 Shell Houston Open). "It was the fact that I was so into every shot and I was in the moment."

Starting in the afternoon, Todd knew he had to go low, or he would be going home. He shot 6-under 64 to finish the second round with a two-stroke lead at 8-under 132.

"I saw nothing but 60s when I looked at the leaderboard," Todd said. "I felt an urgency to capitalize on playing well."

Fourteen players shot 66 or better. The average score was 70.4 compared with 71.1 on Thursday.

Among those entering the third round in contention are world No. 5 Matt Kuchar, who is tied at 136 with Harrington, Oosthuizen and James Hahn, and past champions Vijay Singh (137), and Keegan Bradley and Rory Sabbatini of Fort Worth at 138.

"It's nice to put two under-par rounds together before the cut," Todd said. "That's been a challenge for me this year. Excited to be in the last group on the weekend."

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