5 Things: Hadley leads by 2 at Web.com Tour finale
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The Web.com Tour Championship played at the Dye Course at TPC Sawgrass is where some dreams will come true and others go to die.
On Friday’s cut day, there was a little of both. Chesson Hadley, playing in the morning wave, took advantage of calm, dry conditions to shoot a 4-under 66 for a 36-hole total of 131 and a two-stroke lead over Joe Durant.
“Tomorrow I’m just going to go out and lay the hammer down,” Hadley said, “and if I’m losing by five, great, I’ll try to go win it on Sunday.”
In the afternoon, rain fell early and the wind kicked up late to play havoc with scoring. The cutting line was even par 140, and left Lee Williams as the current “bubble boy,” a mere $1,068 ahead of Jim Herman for the last of the 50 available Tour cards.
Here are 5 Things to Know from the Web.com Tour finale.
1. Joe Durant Reporting for Double Duty: Joe Durant isn’t counting the days until he turns 50 and is eligible for the Champions Tour, but it’s good to have a backup plan.
“I know where I’m going to be playing most of my golf next year,” he said, referring to the Champions Tour. “I’d still like to get through and get my (PGA Tour) card again.”
Durant is sticking to his usual game plan: through two rounds he is second in fairways hit and first in greens in regulation. That helped him post a 3-under 67 in the second round to trail the leader by two strokes.
Durant turns 50 on April 7. On Thursday, he called PGA Tour headquarters to check and make sure of his pending status on the Champions Tour. He’ll be fully exempt based on his position on the PGA Tour career money list and four Tour titles. What spurred him to make the call?
“I saw Paul Goydos (who also turns 50 next year) on the range, Mr. Positive,” Durant said. “It made me think I should check. He’s so thorough.”
2. Brotherly Love: The Putnam Brothers are headed to the PGA Tour. With older brother Joel, 32, on the bag, Michael Putnam, 30, won twice and led the Web.com Tour regular season money list to secure his Tour card for the 2013-2014 season.
“Every time I played with him I scratched my head and said, ‘What are you doing back here?’ ” said Web.com Tour member Adam Crawford.
The question is will Michael’s little brother Andrew join his siblings. Behind a second-round 3-under 67, Andrew improved into a tie for fifth place at the Web.com Tour Championship. Andrew, a 24-year-old rookie, entered the week at No. 60 in the standings, and likely needs a top-10 finish or better. He said he’s proud of what he’s accomplished and at the same time motivated to add seats for he and his caddie, cousin Greg, when the family gets together for meals on Tour next season.
“It’s my first year out here, and if I didn’t have a brother who’s No. 1 on the money list and making it to the PGA Tour, I’d probably be decently content just keeping my (Web.com Tour) card, keeping my job,” Andrew said. “Since he’s doing so well, I’d say I would be more disappointed now if I don’t make it to the PGA Tour.”
The brothers typically play practice rounds together, but were paired together only once during the regular season in Chile. Andrew couldn’t remember the first time he beat his older brother but he knew he had beaten Michael head-to-head in the first three Web.com Tour events of the season.
“I take credit for his success,” Andrew joked.
3. Home-cooking for Aron Price: Aron Price, who entered the week at No. 79 on the Web.com Finals money list, shot a 5-under 65 in the second round to vault into contention to return to the PGA Tour for the first time since 2011.
Price climbed into a share of third place with Andy Svoboda with a 36-hole total of 6-under 134.
Price, a Jacksonville Beach, Fla.-resident, calls TPC Sawgrass home (he even proposed to his wife on the famed par-3 17th green) and has played the Dye Course at TPC Sawgrass countless times, but never with so much on the line.
“Whenever I play here I get up and just slug it,” he said. “In a tournament, it means something and suddenly the fairways become narrow.”
Remember when the coach of Hickory High School had his players measure the height of the basket and the distance to the free-throw line before the Indiana state championship game in the movie Hoosiers? Well, Price has pulled a page out of the Norman Dale playbook.
“One thing I’ve done is I paced every fairway from side to side to say, hey, this fairway is 32 yards wide,” the 31-year-old Price said. “That’s pretty wide.”
So far, it’s working.
4. Merritt Meriting Attention: Troy Merritt took care of business on Friday, shooting a 6-under 64 in the afternoon to improve from T-100 after the first round to T-15. Making the cut should all but assure Merritt returns to the PGA Tour for the first time since 2011.
“As long as I don’t do something stupid on the weekend,” said Merritt, who started the week ranked No. 29 with $32,500 and needs a solo 60th finish or better (67 players made the cut).
Following an opening 75, Merritt went to the driving range after his round for the first time all year and hit drivers for 10 minutes.
“My alignment was a little open and my tempo a little quick,” he said he discovered.
Merritt canned putts of 20 feet at the eighth and eight feet at the ninth to wrap up the bogey-free round and remove any concern over a few sleepless nights.
“I would’ve needed a lot of help on the weekend,” Merritt said. “You don’t want to put your fate in someone else’s hands.”
Another big mover in the right direction was Australian Adam Crawford, who shot 65, and jumped into a share of ninth place (he needs a solo 20th or better).
5. Bubbles Burst...The list you don’t want to be on: For some, the realization that their best wasn’t good enough came on Friday in the form of a missed cut.
Steve Wheatcroft, via Twitter, summed up the sickening feeling: “All I found was rough, missed putts and heartbreak. Gutted right now. This is awful."
He wasn’t alone. Among the players in the same boat after missing the cut were: Kris Blanks, D.J. Brigman, Alex Cjeka, Chris DiMarco, Scott Dunlap, Matthew Goggin, Adam Hadwin, Hunter Haas, Kelly Kraft, Richard S. Johnson, Luke List, Bill Lunde, Len Mattiace, Scott McCarron, Scott Parel, Cameron Percy, Marcel Siem, Shawn Stefani, Robert Streb, Peter Tomasulo, and Aaron Watkins.
Camilo Benedetti looked at the leaderboard at his 15th hole and saw 68 golfers at even or better.
“I knew I had to make a birdie,” he said. He did, canning a 14-foot birdie putt at No. 16. But one hole later, he made a costly bogey and missed an 18-foot birdie putt at the final hole.
“It was do or die,” Benedetti said.
Sometimes golf can be so cruel.