POTOMAC, Md. – Hudson Swafford fired a 4-under 66 Friday and moved into sole possession of the 36-hole lead at the Mid-Atlantic Championship on the Web.com Tour. The former Georgia All-American birdied his final hole for a two-day total of 7-under 133, two better than leading money winner Michael Putnam (64), Sung Kang (68) and Chad Collins (67).
Australia’s Adam Crawford (67) is alone in fifth place at the halfway mark at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, which is proving to be a difficult challenge.
“You’ve got to be patient out here,” said the leader. “You can get on a bogey train very quickly. You can’t try to overpower it. Making a par on some holes is good. It’s like a U.S. Open venue.”
The par-70 layout, which has only two par 5s and plays to 7,139 yards, is located only a few hundred yards from its much more famous neighbor, Congressional Country Club, site of the 2011 U.S. Open. Last year the TPC Potomac course was the second-toughest on tour, and through two rounds the scoring average is 72.818.
His lead might have been several shots better had it not been for late-round double bogeys on both days.
“I made a couple of bad swings and mad some bad numbers,” he said. “You miss it in the wrong spot and you’ve got to get it back in play fast. Those were unfortunate errors but I rebounded nicely.”
The 36-hole cut steadily moved higher and higher throughout the day, eventually settling at 3 over par, the highest on tour this year.
“The greens are getting firmer and faster and the rough’s not getting any shorter,” said Swafford. “I just tried to keep it in play and stick to my game plan.”
The plan is keep the ball out of the rough, which is about four inches deep and extremely thick. Swafford has hit 21 of 28 fairways thus far and ranks tied for fourth in driving accuracy. The 25-year-old second-year pro is also tied for third in greens in regulation (27 of 36).
“I’m trying to rely on my iron game and my putter,” he said. “I’ve putted really well. My speed has been good and I just am comfortable right now.”
He shouldn’t get too comfy because closing in is Putnam, who has five top-10 finishes in his last seven starts, including a win at last week’s Mexico Championship.
“I haven’t really reset the goals yet,” said Putnam, who ended Edward Loar’s six-week run at No. 1 with his victory. “I’d obviously like to keep the number one. I’ve been playing solid golf and every week I feel like I should be in the last group on the weekend.”
Putnam will join Swafford in the final pairing for Saturday’s third round as the field chases down the first-place check of $108,000.
“I know golf is weird and you can go through bad phases and good phases,” he said. “I’m going to try and ride this one as long as I can.”
Putnam has rebounded after a slow start Thursday, which saw him at 3 over after his first five holes.
“I think I had the tournament hangover,” he admitted. “There was no pressure on me and I think I just lost the edge. I’ve been pretty busy all week and it took five or six holes to get back into the golf groove.”
--A total of 60 players, the Web.com Tour minimum, made the 36-hole cut, which came at 3-over-par 143. This was the highest cut on tour this year and the highest since the 2012 TPC Stonebrae Championship (3 over) in Hayward, Calif.
--Chad Moseley and Michael Letzig withdrew due to wrist injuries.
--Hudson Swafford (Nos. 11-14) and Troy Merritt (Nos. 12-15) each ran off four birdies in a row.
--This is the second time this year that Swafford has held the 36-hole lead. He was at 8 under and up by one after two rounds of the South Georgia Classic before weekend scores of 72-74 dropped him to a tie for 11th.
--Michael Putnam’s 6-under 64 was the best round of the day by two shots. Martin Piller, Hudson Swafford and Steve Wheatcroft posted 4-under 66s as only 22 players in the field managed to break par.
--Swafford leads the field with 13 birdies through two days. Si Woo Kim is next with 11.
--PGA Professional Chip Sullivan, the Director of Golf at Hanging Rock Golf Club in Salem, Va., has posted rounds of 69-71 and is tied for 17th. Sullivan, 47, is making his first start on tour since September 2009. He was a conditional member of the tour that year and made nine starts and three cuts. His first start came at the 1993 Dominion Open near Richmond. During his career, he has made five cuts in 23 total starts and his best finishes came at the 2004 Henrico County Open (tied for 26th) and the 2005 Virginia Beach Open (tied for 26th).
Sullivan has eagled the 299-yard, par-4 14th hole each of the first two days. He laid up Thursday and holed out from 97 yards. He drove the green Friday and canned a 6-foot putt. Sullivan also leads the field in fewest putts (48).