Welcome back, Scarlet.
The winds kicked up and the greens hardened during Friday’s second round of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational and the famed Scarlet Course at Ohio State University regained its teeth.
Friday’s best scores turned out to be 4-under-par 67s, a far cry from Thursday’s pushover of an opener, which featured seven rounds of 66 or better, including a course-record, 8-under 63 by Jonathan Kaye.
Steady winds of 10-20 mph helped the Scarlet Course produce a scoring average of 72.805, nearly two full strokes above its par of 71, and about a stroke and a half higher than Thursday.
“Anything under par is a good round today,” said Californian Michael Putnam, who shot a 2-under 69 to reach 6-under 136 and take the second-round lead. “The wind is the worst for golfers. It just blows the ball everywhere and it’s tough conditions to play in.”
Conditions made it difficult for many to move forward. The goal, instead, was to keep from moving too far backward.
Putnam missed some short birdie putts in the middle of his round but held things together and sits atop a jammed leaderboard with a one-stroke lead over Alistair Presnell (69), Nick Flanagan (71), Scott Brown (72) and Camilo Benedetti (70). Eight players are tied for sixth at 4 under, including Russell Henley of the University of Georgia, one of 10 top amateurs given sponsor exemptions this week.
First-round leader Kaye hit only four of 14 fairways, made no birdies and struggled to a 5-over 76, 13 strokes higher than his record-setter. Despite the stumble, Kaye is still in the hunt at 3 under and three back heading into the weekend.
“It seemed like today you just couldn’t get it close to the hole,” said Putnam, who held onto the lead thanks to a closing two-putt par from 60 feet on the 18th hole. “It’s a really good golf course.”
Benedetti joined the group in second place late in the afternoon, saving par from 10 feet after dumping his second in a greenside bunker.
“It was tough out there today. It seemed like the wind was coming across on every hole, and then it was switching,” said the former Florida Gator. “This is a tough golf course no matter what the wind is doing. We’ve played some courses recently where you can hit it all over the place and still score. Out here if you hit it well you’re going to score well but if you hit it bad you’re going to fight it.”
Flanagan, a former U.S. Amateur champion, has struggled with his game but has managed to keep his head above water.
“I’m not making many bogeys,” said the Australia native. “I’m making a lot of putts from 5 to 10 feet, which is always handy. So I’m not making those mistakes and going backwards.”
Flanagan has hit barely half of the fairways and two out of three greens but finds himself in contention.
“It’s more frustration than anything,” he said. “Knowing that I’m around the lead, and if I can possibly have some decent ball striking round that I can pull away from some of these guys. But that is just the way golf goes. You can’t hit it perfect every day.”
So far, he has hasn’t had to.
Second-Round Notes: Nate Smith has an interesting tale to tell. His tee shot on the par-4 seventh hole went into the right rough and before he could get there to hit his second, a crow swooped into the grass, picked up his ball and flew off with it into some nearby trees. No one saw the ball drop and so Smith called a Rules Official over, explained the situation and was eventually allowed to drop another ball in the approximate location of the original. He incurred no penalty and wound up making a par on the hole. “The bird must not have been a Duke fan,” said Smith, a Blue Devil grad. Smith shot a 2-under 69 and is tied for 14th.
John Riegger, John Douma, David Branshaw and Dicky Pride all withdrew during the second round due to injury. … Camilo Benedetti birdied the par-3 eight, after he aced the same hole on Thursday. … Matt Davidson leads the field in driving accuracy, hitting 23 of 28 fairways thus far. … Brendan Steele is No. 1 in greens in regulation, with 32 of 36. … Aaron Watkins tops the group in putts per round with 26.000.
A total of 72 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 1-over-par 143. The cut line moved thanks to the fine play of two amateurs, Russell Henley and Morgan Hoffman. The cut on the Nationwide Tour consists of the low 60 professionals and ties. There were a total of 61 players at even-par 142, but that number included the two amateurs. As a result, in order to get to 60 pros, the cut fell back to 1 over, bringing 11 additional pros into the field for the weekend. … Leading money winner Tommy Gainey (72-70-142) is at even-par for two days and will play on the weekend. Gainey won last week’s Chiquita Classic by three strokes with a 27-under-par total.