Reifers atop board at Panama Claro Championship after two delayed days

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PGA.com news services

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Published: Friday, February 25, 2011 | 6:47 p.m.

Kyle Reifers could barely walk on Monday, but four days later finds himself atop the leaderboard at the Panama Claro Championship, the first stop on the 2011 Nationwide Tour schedule. Reifers has posted scores of 65-66 during the first two weather-delayed rounds at the Panama Golf Club, and his 9-under 131 total is two strokes better than South Carolina’s Kyle Thompson, who carded a 5-under 65 Friday morning.

Australians Mathew Goggin (66), Gavin Coles (70) and Alistair Presnell (65) share third place at 6-under 134. Major Manning (67) of Florida is four strokes off the pace.

2011 PANAMA CLARO CHAMPIONSHIP

The Panama Claro Championship is the season-opening event on the 2011 Nationwide Tour.

A clear picture of the leaderboard won’t come until around noon Saturday, when the second round is completed. Area storms produced proximity lightning and forced officials to suspend play for 2 hours and 45 minutes Friday afternoon, this on the heels of a two-hour delay Thursday that kept 51 players from finishing Round 1. The net result is that 66 players will have to return in the morning, some with as many as 17 holes to go.

First-round, co-leader Rich Barcelo is at 7 under par through three holes. Erik Compton, who shot 6-under 64 to share the first-round lead with Barcelo and Coles, is 5 under through three holes. Also at minus-5 are Colombia native Camilo Benedetti and Roberto Castro.

Reifers tweaked his back on Monday and wasn’t even sure he’d make the trip from Atlanta to Panama.

“I was working out before I was going to catch a flight and felt something snap,” he said. “I couldn’t get up and thought I better take it easy.”

Reifers, 27, got some treatment and arrived in Central America Wednesday night ready to try and right the wrong of the 2010 season, which saw him make only nine cuts in 26 starts.

“I felt like at the end of last year I started making strides,” said the Wake Forest grad, who tied for second in his final start, the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open. “It was a little frustrating to have that much time off, but I tried to stay positive and just get back to playing instead of putting so much pressure on myself.”

To gain some confidence, Reifers has gone back to an older driver and set of irons. He also ventured west in January, attempting to Monday qualify for a trio of PGA Tour events.

“It was good to see where I stood,” he said. “Last week I played a tournament in Hilton Head that was four rounds. That was nice to get back into the competitive mode and get my walking legs, too. We’ve had so much time off and it’s so hot here, I think that was a big help.”

So is making a lot of birdies, which he has done. He has 12 birdies thus far to lead the tournament, including a stretch of four straight in both the first and second rounds.

“I grinded it out a little more today. I had some putts I thought I could have made and some putts that I did make, so it all evened out,” he said. “I hit it well and made some putts and the next thing you know you birdie four, five in a row.”

Second-Round Notes:

--The second round was suspended at 2:25 p.m. due to lightning in the area. The first five groups on each side from the morning wave were able to complete their rounds (30 players total). The afternoon tee times began at 1:40 p.m. Second-round play resumed at 5:10 p.m. Play was suspended due to darkness at 6:25 p.m.

--Half the field, a total of 66 players did not complete Round 2. They will return on Saturday and resume play at 8:00 a.m. Following completion of the round, the field will be cut to the low 60 players and ties. Third-round tee times will run from approximately 1:00-3:00 p.m. with play in threesomes off both the first and 10th tees.

--Kyle Reifers ran off a string of four consecutive birdies for the second straight day, with those birdies on No. 2-5. He birdied Nos. 12-15 in Thursday’s opening round.

--South Carolina’s Kyle Thompson had five straight birdies on Nos. 4-8.

--Florida’s Major Manning birdied the first four holes to open the second round.

--Ryan Armour set a course record with his 9-under 61, breaking the mark of 62 set by 2010 champion Fran Quinn in the third round a year ago. Armour had just approached the 18th green when play was halted. He waited out a 2:45 delay before cashing in a 9-foot birdie putt.

--Ryan Armour’s two scores (76-61) look more like a basketball score of his alma mater, Ohio State University. His 15-stroke improvement is the second-best in tournament history, topped only by Bob May’s 81-65 effort in the third and fourth rounds in 2009. Armour was tied for 121st place after the first round and is currently tied for 15th.

--Ryan Armour had a hole-in-one. He aced the 138-yard eighth hole using a 9-iron. It was the fourth hole-in-one on that hole in the tournament’s eight-year history and the ninth in Armour’s career (fifth in competition).