RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico — If James Driscoll were to write a tune about the greens at Trump International Golf Club 36-hole lead at the Puerto Rico Open.
Driscoll already owned a share of the 18-hole course record with a first-round 63 at the 2011 Puerto Rico Open. Did he experience déjà vu?
“No, the first 63 I was – I think I was 11 under with like three or four holes to go and made two bogeys coming in,” Driscoll said, “and this one was just kind of, I just kept chipping away at it and birdied the last to get to 63.”
With the course softened by morning showers and toughened by a stiff afternoon breeze, Driscoll finished with 36-hole total of 12-under 132 and a one-stroke lead over rookie Chesson Hadley. Here are 5 Things you need to know from the second round of the Puerto Rico Open.
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1. MAKING HAY: James Driscoll ate up the four par-5s at Trump International Golf Club Puerto Rico in 5 under, making an eagle at the fifth hole for the second consecutive day.
“It feels like that’s the secret,” Drsicoll said. “Each week the leader kills the par 5s and that’s what I’ve been doing the last couple of days.”
Driscoll capped off his round of 63 by pitching his third shot at the par 5 18th hole from 60 yards to 2 feet to take the 36-hole lead. Driscoll, 36, is winless in more than eight seasons on the Tour. His best result is a pair of runner-up finishes, but he said he’s not trying to look too far ahead.
“Winning is definitely on my mind, but I’m going to try to enjoy my position,” he said. “You can’t control outcome. You can only control what’s between your ears.”
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2. STANDING TALL: Chesson Hadley had been spinning his wheels. He suffered through a stretch of five straight missed cuts between the McGladrey Classic and Farmers Insurance Open.
“That was pathetic,” he said. “I’ve kind of been struggling all year just with ball striking, just finding the planet, honestly.”
Hadley broke out of his slump with a 65 thanks to a brief conversation with Jeff Patton of the Golf Club of Georgia, his instructor of more than seven years, who suggested he go back to basics and “stay tall through the ball.”
“I just started thinking about that yesterday before my round, and I hit it great on the range, and it really started to line up yesterday,” he said, “and then I just pured it everywhere, all over the place today. I played awesome.”
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3. TAKING ADVANTAGE: Playing out of the past champions category won’t go down as Eric Axley’s favorite pastime. The 2006 Valero Texas Open champion hasn’t been fully exempt on the PGA Tour since 2009, and has made just five cuts in 15 starts with his limited access. Last season, he earned just $4,046 in six starts on the Web.com Tour and two on the PGA Tour.
This is his first start of the season where he got into a tournament based on his status. Axley is making his first Tour start since qualifying for the 2013 McGladrey Classic in a 4-for-2 playoff. Axley said he has played well in Monday qualifiers, but has little to show for it since the calendar turned: he shot 68 in San Diego when it took 66 to get in the tournament, and a 67 in Phoenix when 66 again was needed to secure one of the four available spots.
“It’s tough to gear up for a one-round shootout and if you make an early bogey you feel like don’t have a chance,” Axley said. “It’s harder to Monday qualify than it is to finish top 10 in a tournament.”
So far, Axley is making the most of his opportunity. The 39-year-old is alone in third place at 10 under after shooting a second-round 66. A year ago, Axley withdrew at Puerto Rico during his second round with a hand injury. He knows there is a lot at stake for him this weekend, and he’s not taking anything for granted.
“When I play my way back out here again I’ll have a new appreciation for it,” Axley said.
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4. SOARING AGAIN: Jonathan Byrd is a five-time PGA Tour champion, but he has struggled to regain that form since being sidelined for five months after left wrist surgery in Oct. 2012.
“It’s been harder than I thought,” Byrd said. “Along the way, I just lost my confidence.”
A 69-66 start in Puerto Rico could be just the elixir to restore his confidence. It could also help Byrd lock up his card for the remainder of the year. He has three more events remaining on his medical exemption to earn 92 FedEx Cup points or $103,090.
“I’ll have past-champion status, but you always want to take care of it when you can,” he said.
Byrd said his game has been showing signs of returning, but he hasn’t had the results to show for it because of a balky putter.
“Today I putted much better,” he said. “I made a bunch of birdies and took advantage of the opportunities when I had them.”
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SHORT SHOTS: Former U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee shot 67-68 (T-4) to end a string of six straight missed cuts … Brady Watt, a semifinalist in the U.S. Amateur, made the cut in his PGA Tour debut. He shot 71-69 … Jose Coceres, 50, lived to fight another day. He made the cut on the number (143) in his final start on his medical. He needs a victory to retain fully exempt status, or a solo third/no worse than a three-way tied for second to secure conditional status … Rafael Campos rallied with a 69 and is the only player from Puerto Rico to make the cut. In all, 80 golfers finished at 143 or better, resulting in a 54-hole cut to reduce the field to low 70 players and ties … David Duval was 4 under through his first eight holes Thursday, but missed the cut at 146 … The second round was suspended for 16 minutes from 7:14 to 7:30 a.m. due to heavy rain and unplayable conditions.