ATHENS, Ga. -- Russell Knox of Scotland and Michael Putnam of Tacoma, Wash., reached 7 under par through 36 holes Friday to share the lead over four other players at the Stadion Classic on the Web.com Tour.
Georgia grad Brendon Todd, looking to become the third straight Bulldog to win the tournament, was one of four players at 6 under alongside Sweden’s Daniel Chopra, New Zealand’s Tim Wilkinson and California’s Matt Bettencourt.
On a day when brisk winds and showers toughened the already-demanding University of Georgia Golf Course, Knox carded six birdies and a bogey for a 5-under 66, which tied for the best round of the day with Joe Durant and Miguel Carballo.
“The truth is I’ve played in bad weather a lot more than other people. If you don’t play golf in the rain in Scotland, you’ll never play,” said the 27-year-old Knox. “I hope it washes down all weekend.”
A member of both the Web.com Tour and PGA Tour, Knox said a putting tip earlier in the week from friend and Cleveland Golf rep Mike Dunphy set him up for success in the first two rounds.
“I’ve played pretty well all year, but I’ve putted just horrendously. Yesterday and today I putted great,” said Knox, who had 29 putts despite hitting 16 greens in regulation. “We spent three hours on Tuesday working on getting my mind and my putting sorted, and it’s worked. This is definitely the best I’ve felt on the greens in a long time.”
Putnam, meanwhile, posted birdies on three of his final five holes. The 29-year-old Pepperdine University grad finished tied for second last week at the South Georgia Classic, and said he was looking forward to this week.
“I’ve been playing really consistent golf, so hopefully I can keep doing that the next two days and take home a trophy,” said Putnam, who is No. 10 on the money list. “Last week was a good week, so I’m looking for a little more this time.”
Todd was tied for the lead before a double bogey at the 16th dropped him off the top of the leaderboard. A bounce-back birdie at 17 helped him salvage a 1-under 70, however, putting him in good position to try and make it three straight Bulldog winners.
“Seeing the old teammates and the coaches and playing a course that’s familiar to is a lot of fun for us,” said Todd. “We’re just going out there and having fun.”
Chopra, a two-time PGA Tour winner, birdied the 18th for his second straight 68, while Bettencourt carded a bogey-free 67. Wilkinson made three birdies and a bogey for a 69.
Chopra, who sports a Yoda headcover on his driver, is hoping for good luck tomorrow on Star Wars Day. Star Wars Day’s name comes from the similarity between its date – May the fourth – and the famous line from the film, “May the force be with you.” The 39-year old Swede had just 24 putts Friday and just 50 through 36 holes, tied for best in the field with Tim Petrovic.
--A total of 62 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 1-over-par 143.
--John Daly (shoulder) and Gary Christian (wrist) both withdrew during the second round due to injuries. Cameron Beckman was disqualified because of an improper withdrawal from the tournament. Beckman failed to finish his last hole.
--Though he credited his putting for his success, Knox has arguably hit the ball even better. He stands tied for first in fairways hit (89.3 percent) and third in greens in regulation (77.8 percent) through the first two rounds.
--Tim Wilkinson leads the field in scrambling, having saved par on 13 of 14 missed greens in regulation (92.86 percent).
--Defending champion Hudson Swafford rolled in a 32-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole, his last of the day. Swafford has put together back-to-back 71s and is at even-par 142 (tied for 35th).
--Notables to miss the cut include Benjamin Alvarado, winner of the Brasil Classic and No. 3 on the money list, 2008 tournament winner Robert Damron, and Alex Aragon, the WNB Golf Classic winner two weeks ago.