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Ryan Garrity
Ryan Garrity has been knocking down the flagsticks all week. (Photo: The PGA of America)

Scene and Heard: Notes and impressions from the second round

Grant Sturgeon explained to PGA.com's T.J. Auclair how making an ace on Monday helped turn around his whole week. Plus, two-time champ Tim Thelen is in the mix yet again, Ryan Garrity is feasting on the par-3 holes, and more.

By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer

SANTA ANA PUEBLO, N.M. -- A lot of things can change over the course of 24 hours.

Just ask Grant Sturgeon, the PGA Assistant Professional at Oakmont Country Club.

In the first round of the 42nd PGA Professional National Championship on Sunday, the weather was dreary, the clouds were dark and there were periods of heavy rain. That’s pretty much the way Strugeon could describe how he played at Twin Warriors Golf Club, too, with a disappointing 8-over 79. 

Mother Nature turned the page on the lousy weather on Monday, though, and Sturgeon did the same with his game.

In perfect conditions at Santa Ana Golf Club -- beautiful blue skies, abundant sunshine and just a hint of wind -- Sturgeon fired the best score of the tournament with a 6-under 65 in a round that included a hole-in-one.

“It felt pretty good,” Sturgeon said. “The wind was into us quite a bit and I had to hit a 7-iron about as hard as I could. I just held it up against the wind, it looked good, landed just a little right of the hole and happened to go in. I saw it rolling at the hole, but I couldn’t see it go in, but the marshal, or volunteer by the green held up his arms.

“I’ve had four aces in my life, but only three in competition. That was fun,” he added. “Yesterday I had a really tough day, so it was fun to make a one today and play a lot better.

“To go from a 79 to a 65, I’m much happier with how I played today. I just didn’t handle the wind very well yesterday, the conditions were calmer today, so it’s out there for someone to shoot a good round and I just played better today.”

What made the ace and the 65 all the more sweet was the fact that it allowed Sturgeon to make the cut on the number at 2-over 144, something he didn’t know about when he finished up early in the afternoon.

“I was really happy to bounce back the way that I did,” he said. “I think I’m going to be at least one, maybe two off the cut line, but I played so bad yesterday and I just wanted to go out today and try to make a birdie every three holes and, actually, 65 was my goal. To do that after such a disappointing day yesterday, at least it makes going home feel a little better.”

Don’t go anywhere, Mr. Sturgeon.

IN HIS ELEMENT: There’s no way around it. Simply put, Tim Thelen just steps it up year in and year out at the National Championship.

This week marks Thelen’s 12th start. Over that time, the PGA Director of Instruction at Traditions Golf Club at Texas A&M University has finished outside of the top 10 on just two occasions and is a two-time champion with one of those wins coming on these very courses in 2003.

After 36 holes, Thelen figures to be in the mix yet again at 2-under 140, five shots off the lead.

“I hit the ball very well on Sunday and I made some putts,” said Thelen after an even-par 71 at Santa Ana on Monday. “It was brutal out there yesterday. Today, starting out was a little easier. I didn’t hit it as good and didn’t make some putts on the front nine. Then the wind picked up on the back nine and I made a couple of birdies before I bogeyed the last hole.”
 
So how does Thelen like his position?

“I’ll have to look and see a little later, see how low I have to go the next two days, but the way I’m hitting it, I feel pretty comfortable with where I am,” he said.

THAT WASN’T SO BAD: Listening to Kyle Flinton talk, you might think he failed to break 100 at Santa Ana on Monday. In fact, the three-time PGA Assistant Professional Champion from Oklahoma City sounded as if he would have preferred a root canal.

In reality, Flinton’s round was far from as crushing as he initially made it sound, as he breezed around in 2-under 69. That, along with his 4-under 67 on Sunday, had Flinton at 6-under 136 through 36 holes and just one shot off the lead.

“I just wasn’t hitting it close,” Flinton said. “I was a little nervous today, a little bit jittery wanting to go low here, but I just didn’t have a good feeling about this golf course. I told Tracy (Flinton’s wife and caddie), ‘We need to shoot even, or 1 or 2 under and get off here and get back up to Twin Warriors, because that course, to me, it gives you a lot more visible lines where you’re going. Here it just seemed like I was guessing all day long where I was supposed to go with it, but I got in.”

It was the start to the round that had Flinton a little on edge. He opened with consecutive bogeys and the first one was particularly hard to swallow as his 2-foot par effort never even touched the hole.

“Tracy kept saying, ‘Calm down, settle down, it’ll happen,’” he explained.

And it did.

After narrowly missing a birdie on No. 3, Flinton holed a 60-foot birdie bomb on No. 4, followed by a 25-foot birdie on the very next hole to steady the ship and get back to square one.

Flinton picked up two more birdies on Nos. 9 and 14 for his 69.

“I think it was an A-minus for me today,” he said, sounding a little more positive. “I kept it in play off the tee, I didn’t hit very many close iron shots and it seemed like my lag-putting was phenomenal today. Fortunately, a couple of them snuck in. You just hope that you don’t shoot that 74 or 75 and blow yourself out of the water early.

“That’s kind of the feeling I had coming off of No. 2, but I’m pretty good at letting stuff go,” he added. “No. 3 was a whole new start and just keep plugging away one shot at a time and keep going from there.”

Flinton made his National Championship debut in 2008 at Reynolds Plantation, where he finished alone in third.

“Last year was my first go-round,” he said. “I don’t want to sound arrogant, but most of these guys were in assistants championships and stuff with me. I played really well at Port St. Lucie [in the PGA Assistant Professional Championship, where he had a record three wins in 2002, ’03 and ’05] for seven out of the eight years I was there, so I just felt like this was a step up to a bigger stage. If I play smart and play my game, I feel like I can compete with anybody.”

PAR-3 KILLER: Ryan Garrity is just feasting on the par-3 holes this week.

The 36-year-old PGA Director of Golf at The Dye Preserve in Jupiter, Fla., has played eight short holes over the last two holes -- four each at Twin Warriors and Santa Ana -- and has only once left himself a putt outside of 10 feet.

“I had one par 3 today where I three-putted because I was pretty far away, but I’ve had some where I don’t think I’ve ever been that close to the hole that many times in a row,” said Garrity, who fired a 4-under 67 on Monday and is just two shots off the lead at 5 under. “It’s kind of nice when you get up on a par 3 knowing you’re going to make a par and you’ve got a real good shot at birdie. It makes it pretty stress-free, because the par 3s out here, they can put them in some good spots.”

The funny thing about Garrity is his laidback demeanor -- he said he had no idea how low he was going at Santa Ana in the second round.

“It was a good round,” he said. “I made a couple of mistakes on the front nine, three-putted from about 6 feet, but I kept it cool, went to the next hole and I really didn’t even know what I was at until I was done. I thought I was 1 or 2 under, turns out I shot 67. It’s better than what I thought I was.”

Aside from his assault on the par 3s, he’s 2 under for the week with three birdies and one bogey, Garrity said driving the ball is one of the stronger aspects of his game, which comes in handy on the tight fairways this week.

“One of my biggest strengths is driving accuracy,” he said. “I’ll hit my driver sometimes when maybe I should hit a 3-wood because I’m really confident in that -- like the last hole today. I see guys laying up in front of me, but I just wanted to hit my driver because I knew where it was going. I’m going to ride that around for the final two rounds and just go with it. That’s what I do.”

A FAMOUS SPECTATOR: PGA Tour player Kent Jones, a native of New Mexico, was hanging out at Santa Ana on Monday afternoon following his friends, Mike Small, the 2005 National Champion, and local professional Scott Gates.

Jones has played in 14 events on the PGA Tour this season with his best finish a tie for ninth in Puerto Rico. Since he had this week off, Jones decided to see what it was like to be on the other side of the ropes, as a spectator.

“It’s nice being a spectator for a change,” he laughed. “It’s relaxing. It’s good to see my friends, watching them do well and just kind of enjoying it instead of being stressed out.”

Small, who has been fighting back pain all week, was 1 under after 36 holes. Gates, meanwhile, missed the cut at 4 over.

While Jones was enjoying the relaxed atmosphere, he was also a tad envious of his friends.

“It would be nice to have an event that I could play in, in my home state. That would be great,” Jones said. “But it’s also nice just to be at home and not playing. I just enjoy my time at home. But it would be great if we could have some sort of an event here.”

 

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