Brad Lardon his hitting the ball well, and hopes he can heat up his putter over the final two rounds. (Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America)
Emotions run high on both sides of cut line
The halfway cut fell at 5-over 147 Monday night, sending much of the field home disappointed. Yet even those who barely made it through are comforted by the knowledge that they can still win.
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
FRENCH LICK, Ind. (PGA.com) – Call it, “Survivor: French Lick Resort.”
A total of 312 players teed it up Sunday in the first round of the 43rd PGA Professional National Championship, and 85 have survived the 36-hole cut, which fell at 5-over 147 as the sun faded and the dark set in over this Indiana resort Monday evening.
Rob Moss, PGA Head Professional at Concord Country Club in Concordville, Pa., owns a share of the lead at 3-under 139 at the halfway point with 2008 runner-up Sonny Skinner, the PGA Teaching Professional at River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, Ga.
The duo is one shot clear of Bruce Smith, Ryan Benzel and defending champion Mike Small.
Among the notables who won’t be around for the final two rounds at the Pete Dye Course are former champions Lee Rinker (7 over), Jeff Freeman (7 over), Bill Schumaker (7 over) and Wayne DeFrancesco (12 over).
Greg Bisconti, the PGA Assistant Professional at The St. Andrew’s Golf Club in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., shot a 5-over 75 at the Donald Ross Course in the second round to make the cut on the number.
“The week’s been great so far,” said Bisconti, who has finished in the top 16 three times in his four National Championship appearances. “Personally, I struggled a lot today with my swing and didn’t quite know where it was going. I made a double bogey late in my round to get me to 6 over and then I just tried really hard to bear down and make a couple of birdies. I figured 4 over would be the number, so I birdied Nos. 6 and 7. I made a good putt at No. 8 for par and then I just made a bad bogey on the last hole.”
Bisconti corrected himself quickly, admitting it was more of a safe bogey that he took on No. 9, his final hole of the day.
“I kind of knew the projected cut was 5 over at that point, because my caddie came over and checked, so I took a bogey as opposed to trying to do something special,” he said. “I’m hoping to play another two days. It’s hard to make the cut out here, so if you can make the cut it’s been a good week.”
Matt Murdoch, the PGA Assistant Professional at Mission Hills Country Club in Mission, Kan., is making his National Championship debut this week. He rolled home a three-foot putt on his final hole at the Ross Course late Monday to put the finishing touches on a 1-under 69 for a 4-over total to make the cut.
“I played really well in the first round at the Dye Course, but we got a little unfortunate with the weather in the morning,” he said. “That was supposed to come later in the afternoon. Then the wind died down for the guys in the afternoon and the guys shot some good scores, so that made me pretty nervous. You can’t do anything about the weather, you just have to go out and play. I played well yesterday, I played well today and I’m pretty happy overall.”
Murdoch overcame a double-bogey 7 at the par-5 15th hole – his sixth hole of the day – bouncing back with consecutive birdies to right the ship early on. That kept the round going and then he proceeded to cancel out his lone front-nine bogey with two birdies for the envious round in the 60s.
“My goal was to just go out and give myself opportunities and try and do the best I could,” Murdoch said. “I got a little unlucky back there on the long par 5, had a really bad lie to the left of the green and made a seven, but hung in there really well and made some birdies coming down the stretch and kept it together.”
As for returning to the Dye Course where Murdoch shot a 5-over 77 in the first round? He knows he has his work cut out for him.
“The Dye might be the hardest course I’ve ever played,” he said. “I’m looking forward to hopefully getting two more cracks at it, hopefully some good weather coming in and we’ll see what happens.”
Brad Lardon, PGA Director of Golf at Miramont Country Club in Bryan, Texas, slipped into the final two rounds on the number after rounds of 74-73, which was far less than he expected of himself.
“I’m on the number and I’m a little disappointed,” the 45-year-old admitted. “I’ve really hit the ball good. If I could just warm my putter up, it could be really good. Top 20 is my goal. Winning, obviously, is the main goal, but the real goal is top 20. So, I’m a little bit disappointed right now, but I’m glad I hung around there and at least probably made the cut. But, I didn’t come here to make the cut. I came to win the tournament and play a bit better. I’ll get over to that practice green at the Dye Course now and get grinding to see if I can figure something out that’s going to get that ball in the hole faster.”
If it’s any consolation to Lardon or any of the many others who made it into the final two days on the cut number, fellow competitor Bill Britton – currently tied for ninth at even par – made a good point.
“We’ve seen these last few years that anyone who makes the cut has a chance to win,” Britton said. “You can make up a lot of ground at the Dye Course. It’s a shot-maker’s course and if you put it in the right places, you will be rewarded.”
That wasn’t lost on Lardon.
“The Dye is much more intimidating visually than the Ross, but the greens here at the Ross are much tougher than at the Dye,” Lardon said. “I’m happy to go back actually and get on the Dye to get on those smooth, nice rolling greens and try to let the flat stick work. I got very tentative today. I was a little gun shy, especially later on in the evening like this.
“I’m looking forward to the Dye. It’s fun out there. Anything can happen on the Dye. The Dye is a shot-maker’s course and at the same time, you’re going to miss a few greens, so you’re going to have to get the ball up and down,” he explained. “You’ve got to do everything well over there. It’s a great golf course to play. It’s brutal and it’s not very friendly to us club pros.”
Perhaps the best advice of all for the players moving on came from someone who isn’t even in French Lick this week.
Kyle Flinton, whose 4-under 66 at the Ross Course on Monday was the best of the second round and propelled him to a tie for 14th at 1 over, relayed a message he received from a friend after his 77 in the first round.
“I have a good friend from Phoenix who sent me a text last night,” explained Flinton, a PGA Professional from Oklahoma. “He said, ‘They make the windshield a lot bigger than the rearview mirror. Keep looking ahead.’”
That message could serve everyone well, and it sure worked wonders for Flinton on Monday.