SAN ANTONIO — Ben Curtis can’t pick his schedule like the old days. The former British Open champion, whose status has sunk near the lowest on the PGA Tour, now waits for the phone to ring to find out whether tournaments can squeeze him in.
But heading into the weekend, at least, he’s back in control.
Wrapping up his second round at the Texas Open just before a two-hour storm delay left behind a stiff wind that protected the early leaders, Curtis shot another bogey-free 5-under 67 on Friday to finish at 10 under. He was two strokes ahead of David Mathis and three in front of Cameron Triangle and Matt Every.
Mathis matched Curtis with a 67, Triangle had a 65, and Every was poised to inch even closer before darkness suspended play. He’ll line up for an 11-foot birdie chance on the par-4 17th when second-round play resumes Saturday.
Blake Adams (69), Ryan Palmer (69) and Hunter Haas (74) were tied for fifth at 4 under.
“We’ll see how it goes over the weekend,” Curtis said. “When you’re not playing the schedule that you want, you don’t have it all laid out in front of you before the year starts, you’re kind of playing when you can. It’s hard.”
In his first time playing TPC San Antonio, Curtis has looked right at home after starting the year in Dubai and hopping around on the European Tour. The Texas Open is just his fourth PGA Tour stop because of his low conditional status following a miserable 2011, when he didn’t muster a top-10 finish for the first time since joining the tour in 2003.
That’s the year Curtis came out of nowhere to win at the British Open. He racked up two more tour victories in 2006 but hasn’t won since, and his 149th ranking on the money list last year was a career-worst. The slump, Curtis said, has left him not only trying to repair his game but also his mindset.
No longer able to pick and choose where he plays, Curtis described simply being “ready to go” if his phone rings the week before a tournament. He said he tries to focus on the 12 to 15 starts he expects to make this year rather than dwell on his place near the bottom rung of the tour.
The 36-hole lead is his first since the Arnold Palmer Invitational in 2010.
“Everybody knows me, know that I don’t stress about much,” Curtis said. “If you see me stressing it’s probably over nothing, too. I usually sweat the small stuff, and the big stuff, I don’t really worry about.”
Triangle and Scott Piercy, who started the day 4 over, vaulted back into contention with their 65s. Triangle began a bogey-free round with birdies on five of his first six holes, using his irons on the fairway to setup four putts from 4 feet or closer.
“There was no wind this morning and it was a little softer,” said Triangle, who finished eighth at the Houston Open earlier this month. “So you could be a little more aggressive to the pins.”
The afternoon group wasn’t so lucky. A still morning gave way to 20-mph gusts delivered by a passing storm cell, freezing the leaderboard and raising the projected cut line to 4 over. Troy Matteson tumbled hardest, slipping from fourth to potentially out after an 81 summed up by a quadruple-bogey on the par-5 14th.
A dozen players shot in the 60s before play was suspended. After play resumed, no one cracked 70.
Twenty-five players will finish the second round Saturday. Among those near the top is Fred Lickliter II, who was 3 under and tied for eighth with one hole left to play.
Matt Kuchar, the tournament’s top-ranked player at No. 15, faded to 2 over after bogeying four on the back end. Diego Velasquez had a hole-in-one on the par-3 13th and finished at 4 over.