Steve Friesen grew up in Nebraska, so the difficult conditions during the first two days of the TPC Stonebrae Championship on the Nationwide Tour are nothing he hasn’t dealt with before. Rain, fog, wind and temperatures that have barely reached 50 degrees have resulted in several delays and left the northern California tournament well behind schedule.
“This is spring for us there,” said Friesen, a native of Omaha. “I don’t mind it but I certainly wouldn’t want to do this every week. Living in Scottsdale the last several years doesn’t prepare you for this kind of golf.
TPC Stonebrae is hosting this event for the fourth year in a row, and former San Francisco 49ers great Jerry Rice is serving as tournament host for the third straight year.
Friesen finished the last five holes of his opening round 69 Friday and then turned around and added a 2-under 68 in the freezing afternoon wind for a 3-under 137 total and temporary possession of the clubhouse lead.
“There’s a lot of the year in Nebraska where you don’t touch a club for several months,” said Friesen, who had four layers of clothing on and handwarmers in both pockets. “You’re excited to play in weather like this.”
Matt Harmon (68) has the next best 36-hole score at 1-under 139.
Russel Henley (67), Aron Price (70) and Michael Connell (69) are done at even-par 140.
The schedule is a mess as only 64 players in the original field of 156 have managed to complete both rounds. A total of 24 players have yet to tee off in Round 2. Ten others have withdrawn at various times during the first two days, including tournament host and NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice.
“We’re doing everything we can,” said Nationwide Tour Tournament Director Orlando Pope. “Mother Nature is just not cooperating.”
First-round leader Ben Martin is set to begin his second round at 7:30 Saturday morning -- approximately 45 hours after polishing off a bogey-free 5-under 65 on Thursday. The top 14 players after the completion of Round 1, and 20 of the top 22, all played in the morning wave on Thursday and completed their rounds early.
Brian Stuard, who shot 66 on Thursday, teed off just before sunset Friday but has not yet finished his first hole.
Friesen got the worst end of the draw, having to endure rain and cold in the afternoon and then wait out a four-hour delay Friday morning because of fog and a saturated TPC Stonebrae course that has been swamped with 3.27 inches of rain this week. More than 1.5 inches fell Thursday night and had the grounds crew working feverishly once the heavy fog lifted.
“If we would have gotten more rain today, it would have just been unplayable,” said Friesen, winner of the 2011 Price Cutter Charity Championship. “The golf course is made to play with wind, and if you hit some good shots, there are some pins that the ball will funnel towards. You can have some birdie opportunities.”
Friesen had a few chances and made five of them. With lift, clean and place conditions in effect, a key to playing well is to hit fairways, and the former Cornhusker has hit 23 of 26 thus far. The next big key is dealing with a wind that has been steady at 15-25 mph and gusting at times to 30.
“I judged the wind well, which is not easy to do,” he said. “If you’re dead into it it could be as much as three clubs. If it’s sideways, you really have to control your trajectory and spin because it could get out of hand.”
--Morning fog, coupled with overnight rain resulted in a four-hour delay to the start of play Friday. Round 1 finally resumed at 11:30 a.m. with 78 players needing to complete their opening rounds and finished up at 2:55 p.m. -- a total of 29:55 after it began Thursday morning. The second round began at 1:00 p.m.
--Lift, clean and place conditions are in effect for Rounds 1 and 2. This is the third time this year (in six events) that preferred lies were used: Rounds 1 and 2 of the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship and the Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
--Corey Nagy and John Kimbell withdrew during the round and did not resume play on Friday. NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice withdrew after nine holes in the second round. Craig Bowden (75), Jeff Cuzzort (75), Jason Gore (76), Ewan Porter (77), Reid Edstrom (77), Roger Tambellini (78) and Andrew Mageee (89) all withdrew after the first round.
--The Nationwide Tour will take next week off before heading to Georgia for consecutive weeks. The next stop will be the South Georgia Classic at Kinderlou Forest April 23-29.