Rory McIlroy may be the only person in Las Vegas who had an idea what was coming this week.
Asked Wednesday before the start of the CJ Cup why it has become so hard to win on the PGA Tour, McIlroy said the fields are so deep that three-fourths of the players can win any given week.
Like who, he was asked. Who is a player who can win that most people don’t know about? Keith Mitchell, he said, then told a story about playing the final round with him at Quail Hollow in the spring.
“(The fields) are so deep that people wouldn’t maybe pick a Keith Mitchell to win a tournament at the start of the week, but you play a final round on a Sunday, he stopped me in my tracks,” McIlroy said of the current CJ Cup leader. “I was like, ‘he’s a hell of a player.’ And people don’t realize. I mean, you could say that about 100 guys out here.”
Mitchell has a five-shot lead entering Saturday’s third round.
Blowing off steam
Harry Higgs, who enters the weekend tied for second, is serious about his two weeks of golf in Las Vegas. But the days in between the Shriners Children’s Open and CJ Cup were a time to experience all the city has to offer.
“All during the week last week for Shriners I stayed out away from the Strip, and then again this week I’m staying away from the Strip,” he said Friday. “I did go in Sunday night and stayed Sunday and Monday, you know, just make the donation to the Aria and thanks for having me.”
Sunday included a dinner at the Bellagio with friends that he described as awesome.
“We certainly kicked back a few too many cocktails,” Higgs said. “I don’t think I got out of bed until like 2 p.m. on Monday, but I guess that was great prep. It’s nice to be in the same place for two weeks and then also have the ability to go off — to go and blow some steam off.”
* Mackenzie Hughes had the round of the day on Friday, shooting a 10-under 62 to reach 11 under and get into the pack of those chasing Mitchell.
* Abraham Ancer had the shot of the day, making the rarest of numbers in golf. Ancer holed a 4-iron from 250 yards out on the par-5 14th for an albatross. His shot landed short of the green, hopped on and took a 90-degree turn left, rolling into the cup for a 2.
* Collin Morikawa most likely played himself out of the tournament over a three-hole stretch on the back nine. Morikawa went bogey, double-bogey, bogey on holes 10-12, putting two balls in the water.
Morikawa, a member at The Summit, shot a 70 on Friday and stands at 7 under heading to the weekend. The CJ Cup has no cut after the second round.
* After two rounds, just one player is over par. Kevin Streelman is 1-over and would have avoided the distinction if not for an unplayable ball in the desert on the 17th hole.
Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.