Staten leads Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open by one at halfway

B.J. Staten
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B.J. Staten, who had missed four straight cuts, has piut together two impressive rounds at the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open.
By news services

Series: Tour

Published: Friday, October 19, 2012 | 8:31 p.m.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Lefty B.J. Staten fired a 4-under 66 Friday and grabbed a one-stroke lead at the halfway point of the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open, the final full-field event on the 2012 Tour schedule.

Staten’s 6-under 134 total is one shot better than Ron Whittaker (66), Australian James Nitties (66), first-round leader Doug LaBelle II (70), Patrick Cantlay (67) and veteran Glen Day (66).


The Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open is the final full-field event of the 2012 Web.Com Tour season.

Six players are tied for seventh place, including Penn State’s Kevin Foley (69) and Auburn’s Blayne Barber (69) who got into the event on a sponsor’s exemption.

The top 60 players on the money list on Sunday night will advance to the Tour Championship next week near Dallas. Staten, on the outside looking in from No. 69, isn’t sure what he’ll be doing after this weekend.

“It’s just another opportunity to bear down and get after it and see if you can win a golf tournament,” he said. “Let the chips fall where they may and if that puts me in the top-60 come Sunday afternoon, we’ll get on a plane and go.”

Staten, who missed four straight cuts coming into this week, admitted that his year hasn’t been what he had hoped.

“I’d be the first to admit that I feel like I’ve underachieved and haven’t played my best,” he said. “You get it going in the wrong direction every now and then and things tumble poorly for you.”

Staten, needing an boost of confidence, switched putters early in the week in an effort to deal with the slick Bermuda greens at the TPC Dye’s Valley Course.

“I went back to an old faithful,” he said. “It’s one I’ve had for probably 10 years and been in the closet for about four months. This is more heel-shafted and I think I just see the line a little better with it. You’ve got to put the ball in play out here and give yourself opportunities. When you can do that you can make some putts because the greens are just perfect.”

Whittaker is also on the outside, but his view from No. 105 on the money list isn’t as good as Staten’s.

“I’ve got nothing to lose really,” he said. “I’ve been playing okay on Thursdays and Fridays, but I’ve been having a rough time on the weekends. This is my last tournament unless I play really well on the weekend so I have this “I don’t care” attitude and go out and wing it and see what happens.”

Maybe it’s his attitude or maybe it’s a change of putters for him, too. Whittaker, No. 54 in putting this year, is using a belly putter for the first time in his career.

“I wanted to do something completely different this week because it could be my last week on Tour (this year) and I said what the heck,” he said after finishing with 26 putts Friday morning. “I’ve experimented with quite a few. I’ve gone through maybe a dozen putters. I wish I would have found this one earlier.”

Whittaker had five birdies on the day but only one putt of length, a 30-footer at No. 4.

Nitties is even farther away from the goal line. The 2011 Midwest Classic winner has made only six cuts in 19 starts and is No. 116 on the money list.

“Nah, there isn’t any pressure,” he said. “I’ve got to finish top-two to get in next week. There’s no pressure on me. If I finish fifth this week and still play well, I’m not going to be angry. It’s either win or go home.”

Nitties has endured a tough year and missed several starts, first when his father became ill back home and then when he cut his hand during the summer.

“I’ve been on and off this year, with injuries and stuff happening back in Australia,” he said. “I feel like my game has been there but whenever I’ve gotten any momentum I’ve done something or something has stopped me. It’s been there all year, I just haven’t taken advantage of my opportunities.”

Second-round notes:

--Brenden Pappas withdrew during the round due to a back injury. Oscar Serna withdrew due to a wrist injury.

--A total of 68 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 2-over par 142. The cut in 2010 was at even-par 140 and last year the cut came at 3-over par 143.

--There were six eagles during the second round, more than any other single round in the tournament’s history. There were three eagles in Thursday’s opener, bringing the two-day total to nine.

--Bogey-free rounds on Friday were turned in by Robert Streb (66) and Brian Stuard (68).

--The Tour will head to Texas next week for the Tour Championship at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, outside of Dallas. Last year, Ken Duke fired a 10-under 278 total to win by two strokes at Daniel Island, S.C. and vault from No. 36 to No. 7 on the final money list and earn one of 25 PGA Tour cards for the 2012 campaign.