Niemann, Lewis share 36-hole lead at Rocket Mortgage Classic

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Joaquin Niemann of Chile drives on from the 16th tee during the second round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic golf tournament, Friday, July 2, 2021, at the Detroit Golf Club in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

DETROIT – Phil Mickelson created a buzz at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, flip-flopping on his plans to return, and Bryson DeChambeau left lingering questions about parting ways with his caddie.

On the jam-packed leaderboard, Joaquin Niemann and Tom Lewis quietly went about their business to share the top spot heading into the weekend at Detroit Golf Club.

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Niemann and Lewis each shot 3-under 69 on Friday to reach 10-under 134, each completing 36 holes without a bogey. Troy Merritt (68), Chris Kirk (68) and Max Homa (65) were a shot back.

First-round leader Davis Thompson was one of eight players two strokes back. The 22-year-old Thompson had a 1-over 73, a day after matching a Detroit Golf Club record with a 63.

Two years ago, Niemann became the first player from Chile to win on the PGA Tour with a six-stroke victory at The Greenbrier. Lewis, who is from England, is shooting for his first PGA Tour victory.

“I’ve obviously won on most tours all around the world and this is obviously the hardest tour to play on and to win on, but I’m a long way away from that,” Lewis said. “If I can, then awesome. My time will come when I’m ready.”

Lewis pulled into tie with Neumann on his 13th hole Friday, making a 22-foot putt that went up and down a slope on an undulating green.

The wind picked up considerably during the second round with gusts to 25 mph that knocked hats off heads and made the relatively short and easy course more challenging.

DeChambeau voiced his frustrations with the unpredictable wind and his shaky game throughout his round.

“I hate golf,” DeChambeau said after yanking his drive into a greenside bunker at the 147-yard fifth hole.

The sixth-ranked player in the world ended up missing the cut at 1-under 143, following an opening-round 72 with a 71.

DeChambeau, who has an endorsement deal with Rocket Mortgage, declined interview requests for the second straight day. His silence left unanswered questions about why he parted ways with caddie Tim Tucker on the eve of the tournament.

The surprising split with Tucker also gave Brooks Koepka more fodder for jabs via social media, declaring Thursday as “caddie appreciation day," on Twitter.

Nearly two weeks ago, the 2020 U.S. Open champion went from leading that same major with nine holes to tying for 26th with a collapse. Despite being a part of lackluster fields, DeChambeau tied for 19th at the Travelers Championship last week and failed to make the cut in Detroit.

Mickelson shot a 72 after opening with a 69, making the cut at 3-under 141 and changed his tune about returning to play in Motown.

On Thursday, the PGA Championship winner said he will not come back due to a report by The Detroit News that was published earlier in the week. The newspaper obtained federal court records from 2007, detailing how a Michigan-based bookie was accused of cheating Mickelson out of $500,000 about 20 years ago.

After talking with Rocket Mortgage Classic officials in the morning and getting a lot of boisterous support from fans in the afternoon, Mickelson told reporters he is willing to come back to compete at Detroit Golf Club.

“There’s a guy named Mike Sullivan that’s trying to raise 50,000 signatures," Mickelson said. “If he gets 50,000 and all of those 50,000 agree to do one random act of kindness for another member of the community, I’m in."

Patrick Reed, who was one of just two players in the field ranked in the top 10, also was on the cut line at 3 under after rounds of 69 and 72.

Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama was withdrawn Friday after testing positive for COVID-19. The PGA Tour does not test fully vaccinated players.

At least 35 players have had to withdraw because of a positive test and Matsuyama is the fifth in the middle of a tournament since the testing program began last June. The final PGA Tour event for testing, not including the majors, will be the Barbasol Championship on July 15-18.


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