Gavin Coles, Brian Stuard and first-round co-leader Tim Wilkinson lead the way at 6-under-par 134 after 36 holes of the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open on the Nationwide Tour. Coles and Stuard fired matching 6-under-par 64s Friday morning, while Wilkinson carded his second consecutive 67 in the afternoon to remain at the top of the leaderboard.
Scott Gardiner, who fashioned his own 64 Friday, and James Nitties are one shot back at 5-under 135.
All three players at the top took advantage of more favorable scoring conditions on Friday at Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass. While temperatures remained unseasonably cool with afternoon highs failing to reach 70 degrees, winds were milder after gusts of 20 mph on Thursday led to a first-round stroke average of 73.566, the highest on the Nationwide Tour in 2011. Friday’s stroke average was 71.453.
“It was definitely easier today,” said Stuard, a 28-year old from Jackson, Mich., in his third season (2008, 2009 and 2011) on the Nationwide Tour after playing the PGA Tour in 2010. “I made a lot of putts today, but the winds, I don’t know how much less, but they were quite a bit less today.”
Stuard was 3 over par after his first 11 holes on Thursday, but made three birdies over his final eight holes to finish at even par and continued the momentum in to the second round. Stuard’s round of 64 Friday featured seven birdies with his only bogey coming at the difficult, 500-yard par-4 eighth.
“The past four or five weeks I felt like I’ve played well, I just didn’t score very well,” Stuard commented. “I didn’t hit the ball very well yesterday, but I scored well. I hit the ball better today, but it really all comes down to the putter.”
Coles had the putter working on Friday as well, one-putting 13 greens and taking just 23 putts in his round of 64, which featured seven birdies and just a single bogey at the par-3 No. 14.
“I seemed to read the greens well today and when you read the greens right and you hit it on the line you think, they go in,” said Coles. He finds himself in contention in Jacksonville for the second consecutive year. Coles opened with 65 in the inaugural event in 2010 and went on to finish tied for 11th.
A less aggressive approach led to Wilkinson’s bogey-free 67, which featured birdies at the par-5 first, the par-4 seventh and the par-3 11th.
“I just kept the ball in front of myself today and that’s what you’ve got to do out there, keep it in play,” said Wilkinson, a Jacksonville Beach resident. “I didn’t play overly aggressive, I just tried to hit the middle of the green and make some putts. I wasn’t really aggressive on many putts, either, I was just trying to focus on my speed because the greens are pretty quick out there.”
Jacksonville Beach resident and Florida State product Jonas Blixt is alone in sixth at 4-under-par 134 entering the weekend.
Second Round Notes:
--The 36-hole cut fell at 3-over-par 143 with 60 professionals advancing to the weekend from a field of 143 professionals and one amateur. The cut is the highest on the Nationwide Tour in 2011 in relation to par and just the third over-par cut of the season (Stadion Classic at UGA - +2, Panama Claro Championship - +1 and Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open - +1). It’s the highest cut on the Nationwide Tour since the 2009 Panama Claro Championship (+3). The 2010 cut came at even-par 140.
--The lead of 6-under 134 equals the highest 36-hole lead in relation to par on the Nationwide Tour in 2011. Bubba Dickerson led the Stadion Classic at UGA after two rounds at 6-under 142.
--David Lingmerth (65), B.J. Staten (67), Tim Wilkinson (67), James Nitties (67), Camilo Benedetti (68) and Chris Tidland (69) all carded bogey-free rounds Friday after none were posted in Thursday’s first round.
--Only six players have broken par in each of the first two rounds. They are: Tim Wilkinson (67-67), James Nitties (68-67), Jonas Blixt (69-67), John Kimbell (68-69), Brent Delahoussaye (68-69) and Marco Dawson (69-69).
--Four players fired rounds of 6-under 64 in the second round, the low round of the tournament through 36 holes. They are: Gavin Coles, Scott Gardiner, Brian Stuard and Jerod Turner.
--Brian Stuard’s 64 in the second round equals his career-low round on the Nationwide Tour (2009 Soboba Classic/Round 3). He entered the week No. 77 on the money list with $68,259 in earnings. At the completion of Friday’s second round, No. 60 on the projected money list (Alistair Presnell) had earnings totaling $97,351.