Scott Brown figures he’s overdue. The 28-year-old from South Carolina began the Rex Hospital Open last year with a course record-tying 9-under 62. He was tied for sixth place after 54 holes but never got the chance to try and catch the leader because rain wiped out the final round.
In Thursday’s opener at TPC Wakefield Plantation, Brown was cruising along nicely at 5 under par with three holes to go when his tee shot at the par-3 16th hole found the water that guards the right side of the green. He stumbled to a double bogey and eventually settled for a 2-under 69 that left him four shots off the pace.
On Friday morning, Brown moved back into position for a possible shot at his first career title by posting an 8-under 63 that vaulted him to minus-10 and a one-shot lead heading into the weekend.
“Yesterday I threw a round away. I played really good and made one bad swing,” he said. “I knew I had a good one in me today if I could come out and do the same things over again.”
Brown was a little better in Round 2, controlling his distances perfectly and giving himself easy chances for birdie. He wound up rolling in eight birdies to cap off a flawless day.
“I think it’s just one of those courses that fits my eye,” he said. “It’s got big greens and it’s kind of a big course but you’ve really got to place it around the greens in the right spots. I’ve been fortunate enough to putt well here.”
Putting gets easier when six of your birdies are from 10 feet or less.
“I worked on it hard this week and it looks like I got something good going right so far,” he said of his putting. “It seemed to be more of a speed thing than anything else.”
Brown’s 132 total tops Texan Martin Flores (67) by one shot. Kyle Thompson, winner of this event in 2007, shot a 66 and is tied for third at 8 under par along with Ryan Armour, who matched his career-best finish with a tie for second at last week’s Melwood Prince George’s County Open.
Five players, including Wake Forest grad Kyle Reifers, share fifth place, three off the lead.
Flores, a rookie on the PGA Tour in 2010, was 5 under through 10 holes Friday and was the first to reach double digits. Three bogeys on the way in, including one at his 18th hole cost him a share of the lead.
“I had a wedge in my hand and missed the green and then didn’t get it up-and-down,” he said after watching his chip on a slight incline lose speed and roll back toward him. “It’s things like that -- you just can’t do that if you want to win a tournament. You can’t do it repeatedly. Once is okay but you can’t keep doing it if you want to win.”
Flores has a tie for eighth in eight starts on his resume this year (South Georgia Classic) but has been inconsistent otherwise and finds himself No. 60 on the money list at the one-third point in the season.
“I’m just trying to take care of my business,. It’s been a little erratic but I’m trying to improve” said Flores, who has needed only 51 putts thus far. “It’s been two rounds here, three rounds there. I just haven’t put all four together. It’s getting closer but I like where I’m at.”
Thompson also likes where he’s at -- specifically, the golf course where he earned his first career title.
“I love this course. I’ve got a lot of good memories here,” he said after his first bogey-free round in 25 tries this year. “I feel really comfortable with my swing right now. All year I’ve battled a little bit of my game but the last two days everything felt really comfortable. Better than any two rounds this year.”
Brian Stuard tied the tournament record with six consecutive birdies. Stuard opened with seven straight pars before beginning his run at No. 8 with a 10-footer. Chris Baryla also had six in a row on the same set of holes (Nos. 8-13) in the third round in 2009.
“When the first one went in it just opened the door for me. There were at least three putts that I could have made on the first seven holes but they didn’t go,” said Stuard. “It just freed me up. I was swinging easier, picking the right clubs and just feeling more confident.”
Stuard added another birdie at No. 15 and then a bogey to finish with a 7-under 65. He is tied for fifth place. Stuard’s birdie streak is also the best on the Nationwide Tour this year -- seven players have streaks of five in a row.
“I read the first seven (putts) and didn’t have any luck so I brought my caddie in to start reading them on eight,” he said with a chuckle. “I guess he did pretty good, so I’ll give him some credit.”
Carter Jenkins, who recently completed his sophomore year at Leesville Road High School, became the third-youngest to play in a Nationwide Tour event when he teed off Thursday morning. Jenkins earned a berth in the field when he won the Junior Invitational on Sunday at TPC Wakefield Plantation, which is about 20 minutes from his school.
Jenkins posted scores of 76-80 and missed the cut.
Among those Jenkins beat to get into this week’s event was teammate Grayson Murray, who won the Junior Invitational in 2010 and went on to become the second youngest to make the cut in Tour history. Murray is a rising senior at Leesville Road and will attend Wake Forest University on a golf scholarship. Jenkins has made a verbal commitment to UNC-Greensboro.
--A total of 72 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 1-under 141. The past two years the cut has been at 3 under par.
--B.J. Staten turned the front nine at 6-under 30. He shot a 3-over 38 on the back and finished with a 3-under 68, which moved him to a tie for 15th.
--Ty Tryon, who was born at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, carded a 4-over 75 in the opening round but bounced back with a career-best 7-under 64. His previous best on the Nationwide Tour was a 67 (twice) and on the PGA Tour was a 65 (twice). Tryon hit 10 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens. He is tied for 36th after being tied for 135th following his first round.