There isn’t a PGA Tour event in his birth state of Iowa nor his home state of Idaho. So this week’s 3M Open is as close to a home game as Troy Merritt is going to get. Friday in Round 2, he played TPC Twin Cities like there was a home-field advantage.
The former Spring Lake Park prep golfer shot 7-under 64 on a muggy, windless morning that got him to 8 under for the tournament, tied for 11th place heading into the weekend.
“It was funny, they were a lot louder [Friday] when more birdies were going in,” Merritt said of the “several” friends, family and other local golf fans following his group. “Hopefully we can continue that this weekend and see how loud we can get them.”
After starting his round with five consecutive pars, Merritt got the crowd charged with a chip-in eagle on the par-5 sixth hole. Merritt gave a shot back on the difficult ninth hole, then shot 6-under 30 on the back nine. That impressive run included a 27-foot putt for birdie on No. 15, part of a stretch of marking four circles on his card in a row.
“Just kind of took care of business,” Merritt said. “It’s fun when 6 under in nine holes just kind of seems simple. It doesn’t happen very much.”
It certainly didn’t last week in Detroit, when Merritt shot even par and missed the cut at the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic.
That’s never the goal, of course, but the extra time before coming to Blaine allowed Merritt to rest up and zero in on another new event.
“That was the main focus this week, put some time in with the driver,” Merritt said. “Obviously I know the course. … Still needed to find the driver. Just because you know a golf course doesn’t mean you’re going to play it well.”
Whatever Merritt did it worked. He has missed only three fairways so far, which on a course that is playing long with saturated rough can mean a world of difference.
Merritt planned to enjoy Friday night’s Twins game at Target Field before making a run up the leaderboard Saturday.
That’s Tom Lehman’s plan this weekend, too. The 60-year-old shot 69 on Friday and at 6 under made his first non-major cut on the PGA Tour since 2012.
“The idea of even being near the lead is a little hard to imagine with the quality of these players,” Lehman said. “I’m very pleased to be playing four rounds, that’s for certain.”
Lehman played the first five holes 2 over Friday but rebounded with four birdies in his final 13 holes.
He acknowledged that as a course co-designer and having played it in PGA Tour Champions competition his familiarity of the layout — especially the greens — has helped immensely through two rounds.
“I still have to make those putts,” he said. “But I’m very, very clear on where to hit it, where the breaks are and where the tough pins are. Where not to miss.”
Two-time Minnesota State Amateur champion Tom Hoge two-putted from 53 feet on the 18th hole to make birdie — and shoot 71 for the day and make the cut on the number at 3 under.
That’s the same score for Osceola, Wis., native Charlie Danielson, who holed out from 136 yards on No. 7 to finish with a round of 66. Wayzata’s Tim Herron missed the cut at 5 over after shooting 74.