John Mallinger shot a 7-under 65 Friday and grabbed the 36-hole lead at the Children’s Hospital Classic on the Nationwide Tour. Mallinger’s 13-under 131 total is one better than former Navy Lt. Billy Hurley III, who kept pace with his own 65 at Black Creek Mountain, and former champion Justin Bolli (67).
Monday qualifier Brice Garnett (68) is two shots back while Aaron Watkins (65), first-round leader Nicholas Thompson (71), Brett Wetterich (68) and 2006 champion Kyle Reifers (67) are tied for fifth place, three off the pace.
Mallinger has been on a hot streak on the Nationwide Tour after struggling all season on the PGA Tour. The former Long Beach State standout missed the cut in his first five starts to begin the 2011 campaign. He made six of nine after that, but still missed out on the FedExCup Playoffs when they began in late August.
“I like to keep playing and I think that’s why it was so hard for me this year. Because of my conditional status I didn’t know when I was getting in,” he said. “The tournaments were so spread out that I couldn’t get a rhythm going.”
He’s in perfect sync after returning to the tour where he cut his teeth in 2005-06. While his cohorts were battling in the first PGA Tour playoff event in New Jersey, Mallinger tied for third at the News Sentinel Open in Knoxville after holding the second-round lead. He added consecutive runner-up finishes in Pittsburgh and Boise before a tie for sixth two weeks ago in California.
“I knew I was playing well and wanted to keep going,” he said of his decision to play Nationwide Tour events. “Here I am sitting 11th on the money list six weeks later.”
The biggest reasons for his sudden surge are putting and confidence. Or confidence and putting.
“I think it’s just believing in myself a little more. I’m obviously holing a lot more putts, that’s a big key,” he said. “You just have confidence when you get over the ball. You’re not thinking about anything but making the putt. That feeling doesn’t come too often and you have to take advantage of it when it does.”
It certainly helps your chances to make a few putts when you have as many chances as he’s had. Mallinger’s missed only one green in two days.
“You get momentum going and get some confidence and you can start hitting the flag more,” he added. “I have a better chance of holing the putt even if I do miss the green.”
Confidence is also high for Hurley, who has been making steady progress during his first full season as a professional. The Annapolis graduate has inched his way to No. 23 on the money list by making nine of his last 10 cuts, but is trying not to think about the pressure that is building as the season winds down and the 25 leading money winners gain PGA Tour status for 2012.
“It’s the unspoken thing that’s out there. It’s the big elephant in the room,” he said. “It just is what it is. The only thing you can do anything about is the golf shot you’ve got in front of you.”
Hurley knows that if he can play well down the stretch, things will take care of themselves.
“I don’t need any help from anybody else,” he said. “I don’t need the right people to finish in the right places. I just need to play solid golf and it will be fine.”
He was solid on Friday, hitting all 18 greens and cashing in on five birdies and rolling in a 35-footer for eagle.
“You shoot 7 under and hate to say you hit some putts that could have gone in, but I did,” he said. “On greens like this I feel I should make – everything might be a bad word – but I feel like I should make a lot of putts. For whatever reason I see these greens really well. I just see where it’s supposed to go.”
--A total of 76 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 4-under 140.
--Second-round leader John Mallinger has posted five consecutive top-10 finishes, one shy of the Nationwide Tour’s all-time record. Doug Martin had six in a row during the 1993 season but not in six consecutive weeks. Martin had four in a row then did not play for a month and finally closed the season with two more. Tom Gillis also had six straight during a nine-tournament stretch in the 2009 season.
--No second-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win this event in the first seven years.
--John Mallinger has birdied the two par 5s on the back nine both days but has managed only pars on the pair of front-nine par 5s. Mallinger leads the field in scoring on the par 4s (3.60).
--Chattanooga area native Luke List stumbled with a double bogey on his final hole to miss the cut by one stroke. List, a Vanderbilt graduate, had rallied with nine birdies during his second round and was 7 under for the day as he played the par-4 ninth hole to finish the day. List was at 5 under and just inside the cut line when he missed the green with his second shot and then three-putted to end his week.
--Peter Lonard (69-68) is the only player in the field without a bogey after two rounds. … Defending champion Scott Gardiner posted scores of 71-70 and missed the cut. … Edward Loar’s 5-under 31 on the back nine (his first nine) today included six birdies, an eagle, a par and a triple-bogey. He finished with a 4-under 68 and is 6-under through 36 holes.
--Jonas Blixt rallied for a 7-under 65 after shooting a 2-over 74 on Thursday. Blixt, No. 7 on the money list, has had trouble hitting greens this week. The third-year pro from Florida State has hit 24 of 36 (66.7%) but ranks 76th in the field thus far. He has only 56 putts and is tied for second in that category.
--Harris English, a graduate of Baylor School in Chattanooga before his college days at Georgia, shot a 4-under 68 Friday but it wasn’t enough to make the cut. English, winner of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational as an amateur in July, shot a 2-over 74 on Thursday.
--Reigning NCAA individual champion John Peterson of LSU bogeyed his final hole Friday but still managed to make the cut on the number in his professional debut. Peterson (69-71) finished at 4-under 140 and will be in the first group off the tee in Saturday’s third round. Peterson has 69 putts in the first two rounds. Only two players (Travis Bertoni, 70, and Russell Henley, 70) had more.
--Ted Potter Jr. leads the field in driving accuracy and is a perfect 28-of-28 off the tee. Potter (66-69) is at 9 under and tied for ninth and will be seeking his third win of the year. He picked up titles at the South Georgia Classic at the beginning of May and the Soboba Golf Classic two weeks ago.
--Monday qualifier Brice Garnett is a perfect 36 of 36 in hitting greens in regulation. Garnet (65-68) is at 11 under par. He three-putted twice for bogey on Friday and has a total of 66 putts through two days, including 35 in the second round.