Jesse Mueller Leads By One After Two Rounds Of The 2022 PGA Professional Championship
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Jesse Mueller passed the test in his first Championship exposure to the stern Fazio Foothills Course at Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, posting a 4-under 67, good for a one-shot lead over Austin Hurt and Dylan Newman at the 2022 PGA Professional Championship presented by Cadillac, Club Car and Rolex.
Mueller will fend with the Fazio Foothills layout twice more in the next 48 hours, as well as a packed leaderboard that features 15 players within four shots of his two-day total of 133.
Mueller is making his second foray in the PGA Professional Championship (he finished T-29 last year at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida), but he has a reservoir of playing experience gained on the Korn Ferry and Gateway (17 career wins) tours. He also won the Hawaii State Open in 2009 and, more recently, twice (2017, ‘20) claimed the Southwest PGA Section’s Professional Championship.
Mueller seized the lead for the first time just as lunchtime approached, when he birdied the par-5 fifth hole on the par-71 Fazio Foothills, his 14th hole of the day. That birdie was his sixth of the day, one more than he tallied the day before when he had an opening 66. It also separated him from the other players, as many as four, who’d shared the lead at 7-under.
“That’s a really tough par-5 (602 yards on Monday) to go for in two, so I am going to probably play it as a three-shot hole all week,” said Mueller. “I left myself in a good spot, underneath the hole and was able to knock it in from 12 feet for birdie.”
Mueller, 39, a PGA General Manager at the Grand Canyon University Golf Course in Phoenix, is confident in his game, describing it as “very capable.”
When asked to assess his greatest strength? “Right now, it’s my ball striking.”
With one exception.
He hit his final tee shot thin on the par-3, 9th hole, putting his lead in peril, but only for an instant.
“I hit the ball in the hazard, where it hit a rock and popped up and onto the fringe (about 4 inches from bounding out of play). I was able to get in for par (thanks to a 7-foot uphill par putt). That bounce itself was worth a two-shot swing.”
Better to be lucky than good? It’s best to have both working in your favor, as Mueller has for the first 36 holes of the premier event for PGA Professionals.
“I just want to maintain confidence in my abilities and let them take over. Last year I was a bit hesitant and not as on top of my game as I am this year.”
Hurt was nipping at Mueller’s heels most of the morning, thanks to an efficient second-round 68 that included an eagle on No. 12 on the Coore Crenshaw course, as well as a birdie on 4 and only a single bogey, on the 11th.
The Head Professional at Wing Point Golf & Country Club in Seattle, Hurt produced a cleaner scorecard than during his first round on the Fazio Foothills—eight birdies, four on each side, plus a trio of bogeys.
Hurt’s secret sauce? His play on six par-5s through 36 holes at Omni Barton Creek, where he is 5-under par thanks to the aforementioned eagle, three birdies, two pars.
Newman, an Assistant Professional from Brae Burn Country Club, Purchase, New York, birdied his penultimate hole on Coore Crenshaw (No. 8) this evening to pull even with Hurt and within a shot of Mueller.
Casey Pyne and two former PGA Professional Champions, Michael Block (2014) and Ryan Vermeer (2018), are two strokes back, and within striking distance, at 135.
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First-round leader Tyler Collet struggled Monday, posting a 3-over-par 70 on Coore Crenshaw. He is tied for 16th place, but within range, five shots off the lead.
Defending Champion Omar Uresti (72-70, 142), a lifelong Austin resident and proud University of Texas alum, made the 36-hole cut. He is nine shots back.
One of the five women in the field, Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth (68-74, 142), made the cut and advanced to the third round. A Golf Instructor at Eagle Harbor Golf Club in Fleming Island, Florida, Connelly-Eiswerth parred her final two holes on the Fazio Foothills Course Monday to make the 36-hole cut at 142.
Although he missed the cut, Bill Fedder ー a Director of Instruction at The Club at Glenmore in Keswick, Virginia ー aced the par-3, 174-yard 9th hole on the Fazio Foothills Course using a 7-iron.
Fedder’s hole-in-one, which came on his final hole of the Championship, won him the keys to the 2022 Cadillac XT6, the Official Vehicle of the PGA of America, which was positioned behind the 9th tee.
A total of 103 PGA Professionals made the first cut Monday night. The field will be trimmed to the low 70 scorers and ties after Tuesday’s third round, which like the final round will be on Fazio Foothills.
The low 20 scorers earn berths in the 2022 PGA Championship, May 16-22, at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The third round of the 2022 PGA Professional Championship will be broadcast live on Golf Channel on Tuesday, April 19 from 3:00 - 6:00 p.m. EDT.