October 15, 2021 - 6:08 pm
If this were a boxing match, The Summit Club would have thrown in the towel by now.
With its wide fairways, large, receptive greens and virtually no wind to speak of, the course tucked into the red rocks of western Las Vegas has no defense against the best golfers in the world.
The midway point of the CJ Cup arrived with Keith Mitchell on top at 18 under — yes, 18 under — through two rounds. He added a 64 Friday to his 62 on Thursday to get within two strokes of the all-time PGA Tour scoring record in relation to par after 36 holes.
“Honestly, if you hit it in the fairway, you give yourself a chance,” Mitchell said of The Summit. “If you hit it on the green, the greens are so good, especially when you play early in the morning, that if you hit a good putt, the chances of it going in are pretty high because these greens here are incredible.”
Jordan Spieth, who is among three players closest to Mitchell at five shots back, said the course makes being aggressive the only option.
“I think it puts more of an emphasis on who’s making the most putts and there’s a little bit less in carving your way around the course, like really thinking your way around it,” Spieth said. “It’s more you’re firing at every pin. Most of the short-sided ones, if you miss short-sided, you’re actually in better shape than if you’re on the other side of the green.”
Mitchell certainly has been making the putts. His round Friday included an eagle on the third, seven birdies and his first bogey of the week. That gives him 17 birdies and an eagle through 36 holes.
Asked how he keeps it up on the weekend, Mitchell spoke in what even he referred to as cliches.
“Really committing to every shot I’m hitting,” he said. “Committing to where I want to hit it, not where I want the ball to finish.”
Ian Poulter stands at 11 under through 36 holes, a score he would normally be happy about. But having played two rounds alongside Mitchell, he knows there’s a big hill to climb on the weekend.
“The first two rounds that Keith’s played is pretty impressive,” he said. “18 under for two days is some good golf.”
It wasn’t just Mitchell, although his play was by far the most profound over the first two days. The entire field seemed to be capitalizing on a defenseless golf course.
At one point late Friday morning, when Alex Noren tapped in for birdie on the fourth hole, none of the 66 players on the course at the time was over par for the day.
Player after player described the course as “gettable,” and they’re certainly proving their point.
“Fairways are premium here,” Hudson Swafford said. “You hit fairways, you’re going to have opportunities.”
If Mitchell were to falter, there are plenty of good players lurking. Three-time majors champion Spieth, former Masters champ Adam Scott, Harry Higgs and Seonghyeon Kim are five back, while Rickie Fowler and Tyrrell Hatton are six behind. Scott had two eagles and four birdies over his final seven holes to get in the mix.
And if Mitchell needs any motivation to stay focused, other than chasing his second career title, he can look to first-round leader Robert Streb. His 61 on Thursday included a start of 7 under through six holes. On Friday, he played that stretch seven shots worse and finished with a 72, leaving him seven shots behind.
Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where: The Summit Club (7,431 yards, par 72)
TV: Daily 2-5 p.m., The Golf Channel
First tee time: 7:20 a.m. Saturday
Prize money: $9.75 million ($1,755,000 winner)
Field: 78 players, no cut
Defending champion: Jason Kokrak
Weather: Saturday high of 74 degrees, sunny and breezy
Spectators: Shuttles leave every 10 minutes to and from course to the Las Vegas Ballpark in Downtown Summerlin