EDISON, UNITED STATES (AFP) - Jordan Spieth's reign as golf world No. 1 came to an abrupt end on Friday after a missed cut at the Barclays ensured Rory McIlroy would return to top spot.
The US Masters and US Open champion had toppled McIlroy from the No. 1 ranking two weeks ago with a runner-up finish to Jason Day at the PGA Championship. But in his first tournament since then, he endured two difficult days at Plainfield Country Club, where he followed up a first-round 74 with a 73 on Friday to miss the cut by five strokes with a seven-over-par total of 147.
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson was the halfway leader of the US$8.25 million (S$11.6 million) tournament, the first leg of the US PGA Tour play-offs. Watson rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt at the 18th to cap a two-under 68 for a seven-under total of 133.
He separated himself from a quartet of players on 134 that included British Open champion Zach Johnson, who had five birdies without a bogey in a 65. Johnson was joined at six-under by Sweden's Henrik Stenson (66) and Americans Tony Finau (69) and Jason Dufner (68).
But it was Spieth in the spotlight as the 22-year-old Texan tried to rebound from a first round that marked his worst score in relation to par all season. He had confidently vowed to bounce back, but couldn't gain any traction as he followed a first-hole birdie with back-to-back bogeys at the fourth and fifth. Another birdie at the sixth was promptly followed by two more bogeys at the seventh and eighth.
Spieth rallied briefly with birdies at 10 and 11, but ended up with a double-bogey seven at the par-five 12th where he incurred a penalty for stepping on his ball while he was looking for it in a grassy hazard.
"Tough week," said Spieth, who was already certain to miss the cut when he capped his round with a bogey at 18. As a result, McIlroy - who skipped this week's tournament - will return to No. 1 in the world when the rankings are updated on Monday.
Spieth and McIlroy are both scheduled to tee it up next week at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston as the play-offs progress toward the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta, where a US$10 million play-off bonus will be up for grabs.
"I don't know exactly what I'm going to do from here as far as how I get prepared for next week," Spieth said, welcoming the Friday start to next week's event. "I have some time to figure it out."
Spieth went into the Barclays atop the FedExCup standings, although Watson could overtake him with a win. With the Tour Championship counting the most towards grabbing the bonus, Spieth said he was far from out of it.
"Billy Horschel won the FedExCup after missing the cut in the first event last year and I'm in a better position to win the FedExCup than he was at the time," he said. "So why can't I do it, you know?"