It would appear 62 is the number you need to shoot if you hope to contend at this year’s Utah Championship. Following J.J. Killeen’s first-round, 9-under 62, Jeff Gove, a three-time Nationwide Tour winner, fired a 62 of his own Friday at Willow Creek Country Club.
Then again, a 62 by Gove at this event isn’t exactly foreign territory for the Washington native. In the third round of 2009, Gove shot a 62 on his way to a tie for 10th. A year ago, Gove tied for fourth indicating familiarity breeds … contend? He trails Killeen by one stroke heading into the weekend.
"I have a good feeling around here, definitely. I kind of know where to go,” Gove said after his nine-birdie, bogey-free performance. “I have a good feel for what the greens do. I think they’re a little quicker in September, so it took me a little while to adjust hitting [putts] a little harder. But the course is drying out nicely, and it’s getting back to like it is in September.”
For the first 12 Utah Championships, the tournament was held either the first or second week of September.
Gove birdied his opening hole, and added four more on his front nine. He had four back-nine birdies -- including a fanfare finish with birdies at Nos. 17 and 18 to end his round in style.
“I made a few birdies early and kept it going. I haven’t made any bogeys yet, and that helps a lot,” Gove added. “I’ve been keeping it in the fairway and hitting it under the hole, and I was able to hole some putts today.”
Killeen, a Texas Christian product who still makes his home in Fort Worth, followed his sterling Thursday effort with another solid performance in the second round. He had played 15 holes when officials delayed the action because of lightning in the area. Following the one-hour delay, Killeen, with his dad, Joe, serving as his caddie, came out and promptly parred his final three holes, just missing a birdie on his 18th hole after getting up and down for par on the 17th. He finished with a 4-under 67 to hold the outright lead with 36 holes remaining.
“The delay didn’t help. I only had three holes left. But I’m glad I made those pars,” Killeen said of his play after the storm passed. “I played pretty solid overall. I’m not trying to shoot a number, but the par 5s are a key here. I can get to all of them in two, and that’s how you score well on this course.”
Through 36 holes, Killeen has made nine of his 15 birdies on Willow Creek’s five par 5s.
“I want to be in contention more,” he added. “I haven’t won out here, but I can at any time. I’m definitely playing better than in years’ past.”
--In his last four appearances, Jeff Gove only has one over-par round, a Sunday, 2-over 73 in 2009. He shot rounds of 71-66-68-68 in 2008 (tied for 28th), 70-67-62-73 in 2009 (tied for 10th) and 67-70-65-68 a year ago (tied for fourth). His scoring average in 26 Willow Creek rounds is at 69.346.
--Dan Woltman had a career day Friday. He had seven birdies and no bogeys on his way to a 64 putting him in a tie for 12th and his first Nationwide Tour made cut in four tries. Prior to this week, Woltman, a University of Wisconsin graduate, shot a first-round 70 at the 2010 Rex Hospital Open for his previous career best. This season, his best 18-hole round was a 71, at the Mexico Open, where he made his only previous 2011 start.
--Local product Tony Finau, who attended high school in Salt Lake City (West High), Monday qualified to get into the event and then has made the most of his opportunity. Playing in front of a large Polynesian fan base, Finau, of both Tongan and Samoan descent, shot a 6-under 30 on his front nine (Willow Creek’s back nine) and was even par on his final nine. He’s tied for 25th and is playing on the weekend on the Nationwide Tour for the first time. He missed two cuts previously and was disqualified in his other start.
--The cut came at 3-under 139, with 65 players making it to the weekend. The two Utah Championship winners in the field, 2006 winner Craig Kanada and 2008 champ Brendon Todd, both missed the cut.
--Australian Scott Gardiner had the first non-par-5 eagle this week. He holed out from the fairway on the par-4 fourth. In the afternoon, Cal-Irvine grad John Chin chipped in for an eagle on the short, par-4 14th. Gardiner’s eagle was his second of the tournament. In the first round, he made an eagle on No. 3. There were 16 other eagles Friday. They came from Camilo Benedetti (No. 1), Daniel Chopra (No. 17), Christopher DeForest (No. 12), Todd Fischer (No. 1), Bob Heintz (No. 10), Ryan Hietala (No. 12), Peter Lonard (No. 1), Trevor Murphy (No. 3), Chris Nallen (No. 1), Matthew Richardson (No. 10), Chris Smith (No. 12), Brett Swedberg (No. 3), Vance Veazey (No. 3), Brett Waltman (No. 3), Aaron Watkins (No. 1) and Scott Weatherly (No. 1).
Bogey-free rounds Friday came from Justin Bolli (68, tied for 46th), Matt Davidson (67, tied for 12th), Bryan DeCorso (68, missed cut), Carlos Franco (65, tied for 12th), Josh Geary (69, missed cut), Jeff Gove (62, second), Travis Hampshire (67, tied for 12th), Troy Kelly (66, tied for 34th), Trevor Murphy (67, missed cut), Darron Stiles (64, tied for fifth) Brian Stuard (67, tied for 25th), Brett Waldman (67, missed cut) and Dan Woltman (64, tied for 12th).