Martin claims midway lead at Q-School

Ben Martin during Round 3 of PGA Tour Qualifying School at Orange County National in Winter Haven, Fla.

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WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – We’re finally at Q-School’s halfway point, and several of the field’s biggest names will have to rally if they want to realize their PGA Tour aspirations.

Ty Tryon shot 71 at Panther Lake on Friday. His even-par round dropped him from 53rd to 61st. He started the day three shots outside the top 25. Now he’s six back. Tryon is even par for 54 holes after shooting 73-70-71.

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Ty Tryon of Orlando during Friday's round. Tryon is T61.

Tryon was exempt into Q-School’s second stage after making the cut at this year’s U.S. Open. He only played local mini-tour events between the Open and Q-School.

“I feel like I really want to make it this time,” said Tryon, who earned a PGA Tour card at the 2001 Q-School. “That time, I just made it. I was playing really well. This time I feel like I’m pushing a little bit. I still have three days.”

Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton shot 75 Friday, dropping from a tie for 40th to 104th. He was two shots out of the top 25, but now finds himself nine back, at 3 over par (70-72-75). Billy Hurley, the former Walker Cup player and Navy man, is also tied for 104th after shooting 73 Friday.

Compton three-putted three consecutive holes from about 20 feet Friday.

“I need one great round and two good ones,” Compton said. “I have to convince myself that there’s a low round out there.”

The day started with a 30-minute frost delay, but it was less windy Friday than during the previous two rounds.

• • •

Halfway through Q-School, Ben Martin looks in good position to earn Q-School’s $50,000 first prize. He shot 67 Friday at Orange County National’s Panther Lake course and is at 13-under 201 (66-68-67). He’s three shots ahead of former Clemson teammate Kyle Stanley.

Even if Martin doesn’t win Q-School, this looks like it’ll still be a lucrative week for the first-year pro. He’s seven shots inside the cut line for a PGA Tour card.

A slight putting tweak made before Q-School’s second stage is paying off for the ’09 U.S. Amateur runner-up. He started putting more weight on his left side, which helped him keep his hands ahead of the ball. Martin finished third at second stage.

Part of Martin’s windfall this week will go back to his alma mater. When Martin recently returned to Clemson for a football game, he dinged the golf team’s golf cart on a curb. Martin, who won on the eGolf Professional Tour earlier this year, said he’ll pay the approximately $200 bill for the cart’s repairs.

Martin and Stanley were paired together Friday, and will be in the last pairing again Saturday. Despite being former teammates, Martin estimated Friday was their first competitive round together.

He also said it was the first time he’d seen since Stanley since both qualified for the 2009 U.S. Open. Stanley turned pro after making the cut. Martin was 2 under after 11 holes at the ’09 Open and had the early lead, but eventually missed the cut.

It was still an important week for him. By qualifying for the Open, he earned an exemption into the ’09 U.S. Amateur, where he was the runner-up.

• • •

Korea’s Bio Kim shot 5-under 66 Friday at Orange County National’s Panther Lake course to move from 24th to sixth, two shots inside the top 25.

Halfway through Q-School, three Koreans still remain in the top 25 – Kim, Sunghoon Kang (T-6) and Seung Ho Lee (T-10). Three Korean players have made it through the past five Q-Schools combined.

• • •

A near-ace has Nate Smith in good shape to earn a PGA Tour card. Smith’s 5-iron to the par-3 third hole at Orange County National’s Panther Lake course landed in the hole before bouncing a few feet away.

Smith shot a bogey-free 66 to move from T-40 to T-16. He is 6 under par after 54 holes, and on the cut line for the top 25.

Smith has already had one close call for a PGA Tour card this season. He entered the Nationwide Tour Championship at 24th on the money list (the top 25 earn PGA Tour cards). He finished 33rd Nationwide Tour finale to drop to 27th on the money list.

• • •

They often say it’s hard to follow a low round with another one. It’s especially true when you follow that low round with a triple-bogey on your third hole. That’s what happened to Chris Baryla Friday at Q-School.

Baryla’s second shot on the par-4 12th hole at Panther Lake got stuck in a tree just a few yards in front of him, forcing him to take an unplayable lie. Baryla shot 2-over 73 to drop from first to sixth.

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