NEWBURGH, Ind. – Billy Hurley is no stranger to precision. The former Navy lieutenant has been methodical and nearly perfect off the tee through 36 holes at the United Leasing Championship on the Web.com Tour and holds a two-stroke lead heading into the weekend.
Hurley’s 4-under 68 early Friday put him at 7-under 137 at the treacherous Victoria National Golf Club, two shots in front of Joe Affrunti (69), who also used a morning starting time to his advantage, and Oklahoma State’s Kevin Tway (72).
Northwest winds were steady at 10-15 mph with gusts of 20-25 mph during the afternoon, which put many of the challengers in full retreat. Only 10 players in the field managed to post sub-70 scores.
Ten players, including first-round co-leader John Peterson (74) are tied for fourth place and jammed together at 4-under 140.
Hurley staked himself to the lead early in the day by hitting 13 of 14 fairways, one fewer than he hit in Thursday’s pinpoint opener. His only miss on Friday came at the 432-yard 18th hole, where he yanked his second shot left of the green and put his first bogey of the week on his scorecard.
“I was standing in a bunker and it wasn’t a great lie,” said Hurley. “It did the unthinkable. It just turned the club over and knuckled out of there and then it had no chance once it got on the green.”
Hurley’s knuckler squirted past the pin and wound up in the water on the other side. After his drop, Hurley had a tricky 25-footer to salvage a bogey.
“The cup is on a slope over there on the front right. The putt broke probably four to five feet,” said Hurley. “As soon as I hit it I knew it was pretty good. It kept curling in there. It was one of those puts that you never completely know it’s going to go in, but it looked pretty good from where I was.”
Hurley’s putt saved the hole and averted a disaster that befell many in the field.
A left-to-right crosswind continually nudged balls toward the water that protects the entire right side of the hole and produced more double bogeys (15) than birdies (12) and almost as many ‘others’ (11). The scoring average for the day was an impressive 4.591.
Affrunti hasn’t been nearly as accurate off the tee (21 of 28) or as precise with his iron (25 of 36 GIR) as Hurley but has made enough putts to produce a tournament-best 12 birdies and get into a second-place tie with Tway.
“Playing in the morning was a huge help. The first 12 or 13 holes there was no wind at all,” said Affrunti. “When the wind came it wasn’t as much of a factor for us. You have to take advantage of your early rounds here.”
--A total of 73 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 1-over-par 145. A year ago, when temperatures were in the low 100s for the week, the 36-hole leader was 8 under and the cut came at 1 under.
--In the inaugural event last year, Peter Tomasulo defeated David Lingmerth in a four-hole playoff after the two tied at 11-under 277 in regulation play.
--Camilo Benedetti withdrew prior to the start of the round due to back problems. Dae-Hyun Kim withdrew during the round.
--Billy Hurley has made the cut in seven of 13 starts this year and has three top-25 finishes. His best weeks are a pair of tied for 13th finishes at the Panama Claro Championship and the Chitimacha Louisiana Open. He came into the week No. 66 on the money list.
--Joe Affrunti has made the cut in four of nine starts this year but does not have a top-25 finish. His best week was a tie for 27th at the Stadion Classic at UGA. He came into the week No. 151 on the money list.
--Kevin Tway is in his rookie season on tour and has made five cuts in seven starts. His first start of the year came at the Brasil Classic, where he finished tied for fourth, his only top-10. Tway is No. 48 on the money list.
--Jim Renner had the best round of the day, a 5-under 67.
--Among those missing the cut this week was Chesson Hadley, No. 3 on the money list and winner of last week’s Rex Hospital Open. Other top-25 players heading home early are Benjamin Alvarado, Mark Anderson, Kevin Foley and Brice Garnett.
--Fan favorites John Daly (74-74) and Jason Gore (76-72) also missed the cut.