Kyle Thompson and Kevin Chappell share the halfway lead at the Nationwide Tour’s Cox Classic, an annual birdie fest that traditionally produces some of the lowest scores of the year. The pair stands 14 under par after two rounds at the Champions Run course but have very little breathing room heading into the weekend.
Thompson posted a 6-under 65 early Friday to set the target score, which Chappell matched late in the day with his second consecutive 7-under 64.
Veteran Bob May equaled his career-best with a 63 to get to 12-under 130, where he is joined by first-round, co-leader Steven Bowditch (67).
David Mathis (64), Monday qualifier A.J. Elgert (64) and Australia’s Scott Gardiner (67) are tied for fifth, three back of the co-leaders. Nine more players are tied at 10-under 132.
The 36-hole cut came at a tournament-record 6-under 136, leaving the entire field bunched within eight shots of the leaders.
“It was very similar to yesterday,” said Thompson, who carded an 8-under 63 Thursday to share the lead with Bowditch. “It was extremely stress-free. I felt completely comfortable both days in my skin. I never felt antsy or jumpy, those feelings you get when you’re in the lead and that was pretty reassuring to know that.”
Thompson canned four birdie putts on the front nine to make the turn at 12 under.
“I had to play some mental games with myself because I know how low everybody shoots here,” he said. “Just because you shoot 8-under the first day you sit back and play conservative. I know it’s going to be mid-20s that wins this thing, maybe higher. I kind of convinced myself that I was three shots back going into the back nine. That was my way of keeping the pedal to the metal instead of getting tentative and tight.”
Thompson birdied the reachable par-5 10th hole, but then reeled off four straight pars before finishing birdie-bogey-eagle-bogey.
“I’m pretty content with where I am,” he said after his round. “I’ll probably be a couple of shots back at the end of the day, you never know.”
It turned out that Chappell, winner of the Fresh Express Classic at TPC Stonebrae earlier this year, was the only one able to catch him despite benign scoring conditions.
The former NCAA Champion from UCLA was even for the day through eight holes before an adjustment in his putting set-up resulted in five birdies and an eagle coming in.
“At this point you have to keep doing your own thing and put yourself in position,” said Chappell, who got his run started with a 12-foot eagle putt on the short, par-4 ninth. “I tried to give myself opportunities and see where that put me at the end of the day.”
May, 41, also made a change this week, getting his longtime caddie Mark Jiminez on the bag.
“I was having a hard time reading the greens,” said May, who worked with Jiminez during much of time on the PGA TOUR. “Mark has read putts for me for years and he could pull clubs for me at times. That might be it, just that little bit more of confidence that I need.”
May needed a boost after shooting 4 under at the Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic three weeks ago and missing the cut and then shooting 5 under the following week at the Chiquita Classic and also missing the cut.
“It hasn’t been a great year,” said May, who has made the cut in half of his 14 starts and is No. 102 on the money list. “I’ve hit the ball well, I just haven’t scored well. I don’t know what was missing and maybe Mark is just another assurance out there. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
Second-Round Notes: J.J. Killeen (73) withdrew prior to the start of the second round to return to Texas, where his wife is due with the couple’s first child. Brian Smock withdrew during the round due to illness. … The 36-hole cut came at 6-under par 136 is the lowest in the tournament’s 15-year history. The previous low cut of 5 under had occurred four times: 200, 2006, 2007 and 2009. … This is the third time in the past four weeks that the 36-hole cut has been at 6 under par. The Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic and the Chiquita Classic also had 6 under par cuts. Last week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational had a cut of 1 over par.
James Hahn (63) and David Mathis (64) were paired together and posted nearly identical scorecards. They both opened with an eagle at the par-5 10th hole and matched birdies at 17, 4 and 8 before closing with eagles at the short, par-4, 9th hole. Mathis rolled in an eagle putt from 35 feet and Hahn topped him with his own from 25 feet. The only difference was a birdie by Hahn at No. 15. Mathis is at 11-under 131 and Hahn stands at 10-under 132. … Hahn matched his career/season low score with a 63. He also shot a 63 in the opening round of the Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic, where he tied for fourth.
Monday qualifier A.J. Elgert posted nine birdies en route to a 7-under 64 and his 11-under total. Elgert, 28, lives in Lincoln, Neb. and is a graduate of Kansas State University. He won a mini-tour event in Aberdeen, S.D., last week, repeating his title from 2009. … Amateur Morgan Hoffman bogeyed his final hole for a 4-under 67 and a 10-under 132 total. Hoffman, who will be a junior at Oklahoma State, tied for ninth in last week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, one year after tying for eighth in the same event. Hoffman played in this year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach but missed the cut. He was a Walker Cup team member in 2009 and a second team All-America selection.