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Bunched-up leaderboard has Rocket Mortgage Classic poised for weekend fireworks show

Tony Paul, The Detroit News on

Published in Golf

DETROIT — Detroit Golf Club showed its teeth, and Joaquin Niemann and Tom Lewis — two men born more than 7,000 miles apart — showed theirs, in big, wide grins as co-leaders at the halfway point of a Rocket Mortgage Classic that may be damp, but has proven to be no wet rag.

Niemann and Lewis finished their second rounds Friday at 10 under, a shot better than a trio that included fan favorite Max Homa, and two better than eight more, including first-round leader Davis Thompson.

Once the sun set on DGC after 36 holes, 45 players were within five strokes of the lead entering the holiday weekend, some huge names had just rallied late in their second rounds to make the cut, and the biggest of them all, Phil Mickelson — said he'd back in Detroit in 2022, after all.

"I'm in," Mickelson said of 2022, a day after he vowed not to return because of a Detroit News article about his gambling past that he didn't appreciate.

He's in the weekend, too, birdieing the 17th to get to the cut line of 3 under. Bubba Watson, another former Masters champion, also made birdie at 17 to get to 3 under, and stick around for two more days.

They'll start Saturday at the bottom of the leaderboard, but at least they'll start, good news for ticket sellers who lost defending champion Bryson DeChambeau to the cut.

 

He's in the weekend, too, birdieing the 17th to get to the cut line of 3 under. Bubba Watson, another former Masters champion, also made birdie at 17 to get to 3 under, and stick around for two more days.

They'll start Saturday at the bottom of the leaderboard, but at least they'll start, good news for ticket sellers who lost defending champion Bryson DeChambeau to the cut.

Niemann is the better known, the 30th-ranked player in the world who's now made 21 of 22 cuts this season, with four top-10s and two-runner-up finishes. At 22, he's considered one of the game's young guns, expected to win a lot more than he has. And with performances like Thursday and Friday's, that, no doubt will happen. Niemann didn't make a bogey through his first 36 holes. He shot a 3-under 69 Friday, after a 65 on Thursday.

"I played great obviously," Niemann said of a second round that played nearly a stroke harder than the first for the field, because of the blustery wind. "I gave myself a lot of chances at the start and I didn't make birdie on the second or the third hole, but I know I'm playing good.

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