Keegan Bradley fired a rain-delayed 5-under 66 on Friday and grabbed the clubhouse lead in the second round of the Soboba Golf Classic, one of two late-season $1 million tournaments on the Nationwide Tour schedule. Bradley had reeled off four birdies in a six-hole stretch to reach 11 under par when an afternoon storm popped up and halted play for the second straight day.
“Once you’re in that rain delay and guys are telling you ‘good playing’ and ‘you’re doing great,’ you just want to make sure you don’t go out there and do something stupid,” said the Vermont native, who had to wait nearly three hours to finish. “I would have taken three pars in a second before I went back out.”
That’s precisely what the St. John’s University grad did, finishing off his day to take a one-stroke lead over B.J. Staten (65) and Louisiana’s Scott Sterling (65).
Daniel Summerhays (65), two-time winner Hunter Haas (66) and South Carolina’s William McGirt (65) are tied for fourth heading into the weekend in one of the tour’s richest events. Sunday’s winner will collect $180,000, which will go a long way toward finishing in the top 25 on the money list in four weeks and earn a PGA Tour card for next year.
“You know if you miss the cut this week, it’s really going to hurt you,” said Bradley, who tied for third at the Albertsons Boise Open two weeks ago and is No. 23 on the list. “I think people who say the pressure doesn’t bother them are lying. It’s on your mind but you try not to think of it. This week is obviously a big week for all of us.”
It’s also a long week. A morning storm on Thursday kept half the field from finishing the first round and Friday’s blast of rain and wind (gusts to near 30 mph) produced the same result. Half the players in the field didn’t complete Round 2 and will return to the course to resume play at 7:15 a.m. Saturday.
The field will eventually be cut to the low 60 and ties and the third round will begin around noon.
Every player in the field has his eyes on the prize, including Staten, a playoff runner-up to Jamie Lovemark at the Mexico Open and No. 34 on the money list.
“I think I’d be lying if I said otherwise -- this is a big tournament that can turn around a season or even a career, given what’s at stake so late in the season,” said Staten, whose tie for 57th place at last week’s WNB Golf Classic in Texas was his best finish in his last 10 starts. “It can be nerve-wracking if you let your mind go through the motions of ‘what if, what if, what if.’”
Fortunately, Staten was among the early starters and was able to finish his day before the lengthy delay. He played the back nine in 5-under 30 and had back-to-back birdies to close the day and temporarily take the lead.
“One of the worst things you can do it sit there and try to calculate things and figure out what might happen,” he said. “You’re just going to walk yourself in circles. We all know where we are and where we stand. It’s nice not to have to answer some of those questions but at the same time I’d be more than happy to answer them on Sunday afternoon.”
Second-Round Notes: Ewan Porter (76) withdrew after the first round. Brian Smock and Scott Dunlap withdrew during the round due to injury. .. Afternoon thunderstorms forced the suspension of play at 1:25 p.m. Play resumed at 4:15 p.m and then was suspended due to darkness at 6:30 p.m. It will resume at 7:15 a.m. Saturday morning. … Third-round play will be in threesomes off the first and 10th tees with starting times running from approximately noon to 2 p.m. … Jason Gore was disqualified when he didn’t return to the course following the suspension. … Jon Mills had the day’s best round with an 8-under 63. Mills is 8 under for the tournament and tied for seventh. The course record is 62, set by Derek Lamely last year.