T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
Helminen bounces back from rough start in second round
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Ryan Helminen, a 39-year-old PGA Teaching Professional at Ridgeway Country Club in Neenan, Wisc., shot one of the most resilient 1-over 73 rounds you'll ever see on Monday in the second round of the PGA Professional National Championship.
At 3-under 141 through 36 holes, Helminen finds himself near the top of the leaderboard.
One day after firing a 4-under 68 at the Dunes Golf & Beach Club, Helminen was teeing it up at the statistically easier Grand Dunes.
Starting on the 10th hole, Helminen gave himself birdie chances on his first two holes, but couldn't get either to drop. Then things got a little out of control.
"After the first couple of holes, I felt great," he said. "I hit it in close on the first couple and had chances for birdies that I didn't convert, but then after that I left myself some longer birdie putts and just couldn't get the speed down. It was getting to me out there. I had a four-putt and a three-putt back-to-back on Nos. 14 and 15, but I knew I was still hitting it good and I was still rolling it good on the greens."
Those train wrecks at 14 and 15, along with a bogey on No. 12, meant Helminen was 5 over through his first six holes. Absolutely not the start he was looking for.
"I felt like my speed was just off a little bit and I was hitting it through the break," he explained. "I had putts going 4, 5 and 6 feet by. But I knew -- because the ball striking was so good -- that if I just stayed patient and not dwell on it, I could pull out of that."
And did he ever pull out of it, playing his final 12 holes in 4-under par with five birdies and one bogey.
"I made a long birdie putt today on my eighth hole that got me back to 4 over and also a couple of other long putts that I made toward the end that were critical and kept me in the game," Helminen said. "I shot 73, but I got a lot out of that round. When you're 5 over through six and going the wrong way, when you make a birdie and some par-saving putts, it lifts your spirits. Those kind of putts are what keep you in the game."
Helminen's final birdie came on his last hole of the day when he buried a 12 footer.
"The last hole was icing on the cake," he said.
Overall, this is Helminen's seventh National Championship start. His best finish was a tie for 24th in 2011. After fighting through a difficult second round relatively unscathed considering how bad it could have been, Helminen is in prime position through 36 holes to make a run at a berth in his first PGA Championship.