NORTON — As his approach arced toward the pin on the 18th hole, D.A. Points had visions of something he’d never accomplished — a double eagle. He already had a good round going and was sitting at 7 under for the tournament, on the cusp of the top 10.
His drive on 18 left him 230 yards to the hole and, with the wind blowing toward him, Points wavered between a 3-iron hybrid and a 2-iron hybrid. He went with the 2-iron.
“It came out a little lower than I wanted, but it was on the line I was trying to hit, the shot I tried to hit,” Points said. “It released out and almost went in. I’ve never had an albatross, so it would have been really cool to make that double eagle.
“But I’ll definitely settle for a foot-and-a-half eagle putt.”
That eagle pushed Points into a five-way tie for fifth place after Saturday’s second round of the Deutsche Back Championship. He is in a group that includes Charl Schwartzel, who also had a 6-under 65. And their first two rounds have put both Points and Schwartzel into an excellent position to continue their FedEx Cup run, something that was hardly assured coming into the tournament.
Schwartzel and Points came in on the brink of having to take forced vacations next week. Schwartzel was ranked 71st in the Cup standings, with Points right behind at 72d. The top 70 make it into next weekend’s BMW Championship.
Though asked about the pressure of coming in on the outside, Schwartzel said, “What pressure? I can still win the FedEx.”
Paired together because of the standings, Schwartzel and Points rose together on the leaderboard, both submitting first-round 68s. And then came the second-round 65s.
“It’s certainly helpful to watch a guy like Charl get up and hit it 340 yards down the middle of every fairway and hit iron shots right at the flag,” Points said. “It gives you a good visual, for sure.”
But it didn’t exactly make him play better.
“We’re not that concerned right now how he’s playing or how I’m playing,” Points said. “Maybe Sunday if we’re paired together late, we might be a little more concerned.”
Points was consistent in the first two rounds, with just a single bogey in each, plus that eagle. Schwartzel was the same, his only bogey coming on Friday. He played a clean round Saturday, with four straight birdies on holes 2-5, plus 15 and 17.
“I put myself into a good position,” Schwartzel said. “I love the golf course. Halfway there now. Nice challenge for the weekend.”
Schwartzel has done little since his win at the Masters in 2011. This year, he has made just two top 10s, and has not finished higher than tied for fourth. That happened back in March at Doral. Since then he has missed three cuts and had a high finish of T-14 at the Wyndham. He said he had an injury at the US Open, which didn’t help.
“It set me back quite a bit, came back, lost a bit of confidence,” Schwartzel said. “Just seeing if I can play myself back into it.”
Points has had an exceptionally difficult last few months, missing the cut in seven of his last nine tournaments. The other two? He finished tied for 37th and tied for 46th.
“Golf is a game of ebbs and flows, like everything, and I’ve been on a downward ebb for a while, a downward flow,” Points said. “So I just had to be patient and keep grinding away and trying to find something that will spark some great play.”
He has, apparently, found that. For Points, particularly, it’s crucial for him to get into the top 30 to get a shot at the majors. For Schwartzel, too. And if they continue to play the way they did on Friday and Saturday, both have a very good shot at making that happen.
Especially since Points has a plan for the rest of the tournament.
“My goal is to kind of hang in my position for tomorrow, not let the leaders get too far off,” Points said. “If I have a big day and go super low, then great. But just kind of lurk and lurk, and then maybe pounce on Sunday.”