RALEIGH, N.C. – Justin Hicks says he wouldn’t mind putting four rounds of 5 under par together at the Rex Hospital Open and then see what happens at the end of the week. Hicks fired his second straight 66 Friday and is halfway to his goal in the weather-delayed Nationwide Tour event at TPC Wakefield Plantation.
Hicks was cruising along during the morning session and was staring at a 3-foot par putt on the 18th hole when fast-moving thunderstorms rolled into the Raleigh area and forced a suspension of play. The University of Michigan grad had to wait an hour and 45 minutes before he could put the finishing touch on his 10-under 132 total.
“It’s just part of the game. You can’t really pick and choose when you have delays like that,” he said. “I would have liked it to have been a little shorter. You just have to go up there and hit it like any other shot that’s part of a round. It wasn’t something I could go completely brain dead on.”
Despite the short putt, Hicks didn’t mind the long wait.
“You play pro-ams with guys who are hitting it sideways and whiffing and everything else,” he said. “We have to figure out ways to have fun and be able to flip the switch and go back into game mode all the time. It’s the same kind of thing.”
Hicks tapped in for a 4 and grabbed possession of the clubhouse lead, two better than Shane Bertsch (69) and UNC-Charlotte’s Jeff Curl (69), who ripped a 3-wood to three feet for eagle on his final hole.
Reid Edstrom (70) and James Hahn (68) are three shots off the pace and done at 7-under 135.
Second-round play resumed at 3:10 p.m., but less than two hours later another series of thunderstorms developed and stopped play again. The second batch was severe enough to halt play for the day with half the field still on the course.
Round 2 will resume at 8:00 a.m. Saturday with groups having anywhere from seven to 15 holes to finish.
First-round leader Jim Renner is 1 under through six holes and stands at 9 under par. Lefty B.J. Staten and Mexico’s Oscar Serna are both 8 under par and still playing their first nine holes.
They’re all chasing Hicks, who has three top-10 finishes and six top-25s in nine starts this year and is admittedly playing the best golf of his life.
“I never say things like that but a buddy asked me about this year and that’s what I told him,” said Hicks, who is No. 15 on the money list. “I certainly played the game as well in the past but I’m not having those days where I hit it great and shot 1 or 2 under. The scores are more matched up to the ball striking.”
Hicks appears to be in good shape for a return visit to the PGA Tour in 2013 after spending his rookie season with the big boys last year.
“I’m playing some good golf right now. After being out there I definitely have a feeling of wanting to get right back out there and get back after it again,” he said. “I certainly know where I want to be. I’ve always known.”
He’ll get at least one shot at it in the coming months after shooting 67-63 two weeks ago in Texas at the British Open qualifier to grab one of eight spots and his first trip to that major championship. He’ll be in Ohio on Monday and attempt to qualify for the upcoming U.S. Open in San Francisco.
“I’m playing some good golf and there’s no reason why good golf here can’t translate to good golf there,” he said. “The golf ball doesn’t know who’s hitting it and you don’t have to be ranked in the top-10 in the world to be good at this game. You go out there and make birdies and it doesn’t matter who you’re playing against or what course it’s on.”
--Lift, clean and place conditions are in effect for the second round. This is the fifth event of 10 that has put those rules into play.
--Friday’s delays marked only the second tournament out of 10 that has had weather-related issues that forced play to be stopped. The TPC Stonebrae Championship had delays on Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
--Ben Briscoe, Luke Hickmott and Craig Bowden all withdrew prior to the start of their second-round starting times. Shawn Stefani and Ryan Armour both withdrew during the round and will not return to complete their second rounds on Saturday.
--Defending champion Kyle Thompson is 2 under after five holes and currently 3 under par for the tournament. Nick Flanagan, winner of the BMW Charity Pro-Am two weeks ago, posted scores of 71-73—144 and will miss the 36-hole cut. Leading money winner Luke List is even-par through 10 holes and is at 2 over par overall.
--Hank Kuehne, making his first start on the Nationwide Tour since 2007, shot scores of 71-72-143 and will miss the 36-hole cut. Kuehne missed the better part of five years due to recurring back pain but is healthy again and playing on the PGA Tour on a Major Medical Exemption. He has been a granted a total of 19 starts this year on Tour and has already made seven. Kuehne has made only two cuts in those seven starts – a tie for 67th at the Valero Texas Open and a tie for 62nd at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The last cut the former SMU standout made on the Nationwide Tour was the 2007 Chitimacha Louisiana Open, where he wound up tied for 19th -- his only top-25 finish in 13 sporadic starts on the Nationwide Tour.
--Reid Edstrom’s career best finish on the Nationwide Tour is a tie for eighth at the Rex Hospital Open in 2008. To date, that is his only top-10 finish in 25 total starts dating back to his first start, a missed cut at the 2002 LaSalle Bank Open.
--The Nationwide Tour will head to Leon, Mexico for next week’s Mexico Open at the El Bosque Country Club.