A scrambling finish to his second round kept Rob Moss on top of the scoreboard. (Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America)
Skinner and Moss find themselves together again – in the lead at French Lick
Rob Moss of Ohio and Sonny Skinner of Georgia have played together in the past, and now they share the 36-hole lead after two solid rounds. They are one shot ahead of defending champion Mike Small; Bruce Smith, who set a new course record Monday; and Ryan Benzel.
By Bob Denney, Senior Writer, The PGA of America
"The ardent golfer would play Mount Everest if somebody would put a flagstick on top ... Golf is not a fair game, so why build a fair course." -- Pete Dye
FRENCH LICK, Ind. -- The plaque at the top of the hill, snuggled beside a bronze statue of the legendary architect, greets visitors at The Pete Dye Course. The words inscribed in stone bluntly express the "Dye Doctrine."
Rob Moss of Broadview Heights, Ohio, and Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Ga., who have played golf together in their former days on Tour, know what those words mean and proved they have the right stuff to navigate their way around the sprawling 7,174-yard layout.
Their handiwork resulted in sharing the 36-hole lead Monday in the 43rd PGA Professional National Championship at French Lick Resort.
"I saw Mr. Dye on the course today, I shook his hand and congratulated him on building this course," said Skinner, the 2008 runner-up and a PGA teaching professional at River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, Ga., who birdied the 18th hole with a highlight reel up-and-down effort a 1-under-par 71. "He has a great course here."
Moss, a PGA head professional at Pepper Pike (Ohio) Club, turned in a 2-under-par 70, joining Skinner at 3-under-par 139.
"Every hole out here is an experience," said Moss, a left-handed player who does most other activities from the right side. "I was fortunate to get the ball on the right spots on the greens today and hole a few putts. You can't let your guard down."
Moss and Skinner own a one-stroke edge over a threesome at 140 that features defending champion Mike Small of Champaign, Ill., who birdied the 18th hole for a 72; Bruce Smith of Frisco, Texas, whose 69 established the competitive course record; and Ryan Benzel of Bothell, Wash., who had a second straight 70.
The field in the showcase event for PGA Professionals was trimmed to the low 70 scorers and ties, with 84 players making the 36-hole cut of 5-over-par 147. They will play the final 36 holes Tuesday and Wednesday on The Pete Dye Course. The Championship features a $550,000 purse, and is presented by Titleist, FootJoy and Club Car.
"I'm not shocked at the scoring," said Benzel, a 2007 runner-up who has not finished lower than a share of fourth in three previous appearances. "You can't let up and think that everyone will falter. You got to keep making good shots and moving forward."
Small, who also won the Championship in 2005, knocked home a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th green after missing several makeable putts that included a six-foot eagle attempt on the par-5 seventh hole.
"I have not had any three-putts this week, but I need to putt better, period," said Small. "You look at the leader board and the next two days will be a shootout."
Twenty-five players are within four strokes of the lead, with a threesome two strokes back at 141 that includes Danny Balin of Greenwich, Conn., who had a 68 at the Donald Ross Course; Keith Ohr of Louisville, Ky., who had a 69; and Jeff Sorenson of Blaine, Minn., who turned in a 67 at the Donald Ross Course.
Former Champions Chip Sullivan of Troutville, Va., and Scott Hebert of Traverse City, Mich., lead a group at 142, while two-time Champion Tim Thelen of College Station, Texas, is four strokes back at 143.
For the second straight day, the field was split between the Pete Dye and Donald Ross courses. Eight players remain under par, with the par-72 Pete Dye Course yielding a 77.51 scoring average, and the Donald Ross Course playing to a 73.32 average.
Moss began play on the back nine at the Pete Dye Course, making four birdies to seeming grab total command. However, he came back to the field with a double bogey-6 on the par-4 second hole, before settling down and parring out the side. He and Skinner each needed only 28 putts.
Skinner birdied 3, 9, 12 and 18, offsetting bogeys at 6 and 8. He hit 15 greens in regulation and 10 fairways.
"You are challenged on every aspect of the game here, including the mental and physical game," said Skinner.
First-round leader David Paeglow of Dekalb, Ill., who opened with a 65 Sunday, ballooned to a 78 on The Pete Dye Course, and was just four strokes back.
Bill Schumaker of Columbia City, Ind., who won the 1984 Championship, made a record 29th Championship appearance. And after a sterling 70 on Sunday, birdied the 18th hole for a 79, but missed the cut by two strokes. Schumaker, 60, also has logged a record 87 total rounds in the National Championship.
"The 29 years doesn't seem that long to me, but I guess when I think about 1984 and winning then, it does seem like a long time ago," said Schumaker, the PGA head professional since 1977 at Crooked Lake Golf Course. "I was so pleased to be here since the Championship is in Indiana. It made it very special to have this in our home state. I wish I could have finished a few strokes better."
The PGA Professional National Championship, which originated in 1968, and includes PGA Professionals representing 43 states and 41 PGA Sections.
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