Miguel Carballo of Argentina and Peter Lonard of Australia share the 36-hole lead at the Nationwide Tour’s Soboba Golf Classic. The two have posted identical scores of 65-68 and are tied at 9-under 133, one stroke better than Rob Oppenheim and New Zealanders Tim Wilkinson and Bradley Iles.
Nine more players are knotted at 7-under 135, including Jason Kokrak, winner of last week’s Albertsons Boise Open. Joining him are Jonas Blixt and Troy Merritt (tied for third and tied for 11th last week) and first-round leader Cameron Percy, who opened with a 63 but was 10 strokes to the bad on Friday.
Caballo recovered from back-to-back bogeys with a birdie on his final hole Friday morning and grabbed the clubhouse lead after the morning session.
“My driver. I drove the ball very well today,” he said through a translator after hitting 13 of 14 fairways. “I feel like my game is coming around and I’m playing pretty good. I have a lot of confidence right now.”
The source of his confidence this summer rests squarely on his chin. After he missed his third straight cut, the 32-year-old started growing a beard. Since that point in mid-June, his game has turned for the better. He was a cumulative 3 under par for his first nine events before the beard, which has a strange resemblance to the one Abraham Lincoln used to sport. In his last 11 starts, counting this one, he is 81 under par.
“I’m playing a lot better this year, but a lot of this happened when I started growing this beard,” he said. “I feel like the beard is giving me a lot of confidence.”
If the facial hair worked for San Francisco Giants reliever Brian Wilson, maybe it will work for Carballo as well.
Meantime, Lonard is scratching his head as to how he’s posted a 9-under score at The Country Club of Soboba Springs.
“This week is the worst I’ve hit it tee-to-green all year,” said the 44-year old from Sydney. “I guess I’ve putted pretty good. You hole a couple of putts and all of a sudden life changes.”
It changed dramatically in January of 2010 when Lonard underwent surgery on his right hip and left knee in an effort to cure lingering back issues.
“It was either get it fixed or give up golf,” he said. “I couldn’t walk 18 holes. It got to the point that I was hitting the ball 20 yards shorter. I needed to do something.”
Lonard had been a regular on the PGA Tour since 2002 and counted a win at the 2005 MCI Heritage among his accomplishments, but the pain began to increase as the years progressed. He made only 13 cuts in 30 starts in 2009 and wound up No. 164 on the money list. It was time for something drastic. The surgery put Lonard on the sidelines for most of last year.
“It’s been a bit of a road,” he said of his recovery. “It’s been a long year. It’s been a grind.”
Lonard, who has made 276 starts on PGA Tour and earned nearly $9.5 million, found himself in new territory this year in his ‘rookie’ season on the Nationwide Tour. New courses and plenty of new -- and younger -- faces everywhere.
“That’s what a few of the kids are calling me,” he said of the moniker ‘rookie.’ “I used to call them that when I was on the PGA Tour and they called me ‘Papa,’ but now it’s the other way around. I call them ‘Papa’ now.”
--Brett Wetterich (77) withdrew after the opening round. … Jerod Turner (80), winner of the inaugural event in 2009, withdrew after the opening round. … Matt Davidson (77) withdrew after the opening round. … John Riegger withdrew during the second round due to a back injury. … Jason Gore withdrew during the second round due to a shoulder injury. … Danny Lee was disqualified for an improper withdrawal. Lee completed nine holes and was bothered by a wrist injury but failed to notify officials about withdrawing.
--A total of 64 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 2-under 139.
--The top 25 money winners were all entered this week, and 11 made the cut. Those who won’t be around for the weekend: Troy Kelly (No. 3), Kyle Thompson (No. 6), Erik Compton (No. 7), Russell Knox (No. 8), Kyle Reifers (No. 9), Steve Wheatcroft (No. 11), Danny Lee (No. 14), Scott Brown (No. 15), James Nitties (No. 16), Billy Hurley (No. 19), Brett Wetterich (No. 20), Brenden Pappas (No. 22), Garth Mulroy (No. 23) and Brian Smock (No. 25).
--Newcomers Russell Henley and Harris English will be cashing checks for the first time this week. The former University of Georgia All-America teammates who won Nationwide Tour events as amateurs earlier this year are making their first professional starts and both made the 36-hole cut. Henley, winner of the Stadion Classic at UGA in May, is at 4-under par after rounds of 68-70. He is tied for 26th and has only 50 putts through 36 holes. English, winner of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational in July, is at 3-under after scores of 72-67 and tied for 34th.