Mar 22, 2013 10:13 PM by McD Media
If it wasn't the 9-iron - or maybe the shot - of Andrew Noto's life, it was pretty close.
The former UL golf standout, who qualified for the field for the Chitimacha Louisiana Open as a Monday qualifier, stuck that 9-iron two and one-half feet from the pin on Friday's 18th hole at Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club. Moments later, he holed that putt for a birdie, one that put him right on the cut line and put him into the weekend in the biggest tournament of his life.
"Jubilation, a huge relief," said Noto, who finished off a three-under 68 Friday with three birdies in his last four holes in his first-ever Web.com Tour appearance. "Two and a half feet too far for my nerves. I've never had a putt with that much on it ... I was shaking over it, but now it just couldn't feel any better."
Noto, who finished his collegiate career last spring before turning professional, knew he needed three birdies when he stood on the tee at the par-four 15th. So did Ragin' Cajun coach Theo Sliman, who was caddying for Noto.
"Coach has been saying for years, let's just win the last six holes," Noto said. "He said that again today, and we wound up with four good looks."
Noto hit a 9-iron to 18 feet on the 15th and made the putt, and was two inches short on a 40-foot birdie putt on the par-three 16th. He was left off the tee on the par-four 17th but wedged from 60 yards to eight feet and holed it to get him within one of the cut line. His drive went right on the 18th, but it wound up open and 142 yards away to set up his clutch shot.
"A lot of hard work this winter paid off," Noto said.
He'll have a new caddie on the bag for the weekend, with Sliman off with the Cajun team for a tournament in Memphis. Former Cajun teammate Malloy Moulis will take over those duties when he tees off at 10:21 a.m. Saturday.
WE'RE MOVING UP: There's a schedule change for Saturday's third round of the Open, in an attempt to avoid potential weather problems.
The event will play Saturday's round as threesomes off both the Nos. 1 and 10 tee, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and running until 10:30 a.m. Saturday's forecast is for scattered showers and thunderstorms, with a 60% chance of precipitation according to Tour meteorologist Jeff Kendra.
The decision was made early Friday afternoon by Tour tournament director Jim Duncan in consultation with local Open officials.
Sunday's forecast is much brighter, with no rain and highs in the mid-60s with winds at 15-to-25 MPH.
GOOD COMEBACK: Twenty-four hours made a world of difference to Louisiana native Heath Slocum.
The 12-year PGA Tour veteran posted a five-under-par 66 Friday after shooting even-par Thursday, with his five-under 137 score getting him into the top 20 heading into the weekend. He's 19th, six out of the lead.
"I played way better today," said Slocum, who is making his first professional appearance in his home state since the 2007 Zurich Classic. "There were better scoring conditions, and I had a lot more ball control with my irons."
He birdied all three of the par-fives on the front nine at Le Triomphe, and birdied three of the par-fours on the back around his lone bogey on the par-four 15th. Slocum, who ranks in the top 75 in PGA Tour career earnings and is a four-time PGA Tour winner, hit 17 of 18 greens, missing only when he went long on the ninth.
"That and 18 were the worst irons I hit and I still made par," he said. "My game's coming around."
GOOD COMEBACK II: Michael Smith just dug himself too deep a hole in Thursday's first round.
The Lafayette native, former UL standout and 2011 U.S. Open participant rallied from an opening 77 with a stellar five-under-par 66 on Friday. He still wound up missing the cut, but his tournament's final nine holes gave him something to build on for the rest of the season.
"I hit it so good the last 10 holes," Smith said after posting four birdies and an eagle on the front nine after beginning play at No. 10. "The last nine, I really could have birdied every hole ... that 30 could have been a 28 very easily."
Smith was one over after his first nine holes, bogeying the tough par-four 14th, but birdied the first, second and third holes. He followed with a birdie at the sixth, and then eagled the seventh to get to five-under for the day.
"Yesterday just buried me," he said. "Today the ball just finally went in the hole. Even as bad as I played yesterday, I was hitting it well. I hope this can be a turnaround for me."
CLOSE, BUT ... : Also missing the cut - barely - was Lafayette' Brian Rowell, whose two-under 69 on Friday left him at one-under 141 for 36 holes. It took two-under 140 to reach the weekend.
"That's enough to light a fire under me," said Rowell, who tied for 21st here in 2006 and also made the cut in 2011 in his only previous Open appearances. "All day long I was on the cut line, so it was nerve-racking. I've been there before and I've made it before, but my putter really let me down this week. I must have missed 10 putts inside seven or eight feet."
He still had a chance to hit the cut line on the par-four ninth, his final hole, but his second shot came up short and plugged in a front bunker. His third shot went long to the fringe and his par putt slid by.
"That was just a bad break," he said. "That (plugging in a bunker) rarely happens out here. But that was kind of my day ... I'd make a couple of birdies in a row (twice) and then hit the worst shot I could imagine."
OTHER LOCALS: It was also a comeback day for Lafayette's Matt Berry, who struggled to an 85 in Thursday's opening round and was four-over through six holes Friday. But on his final five holes, he posted four birdies including the par-five fifth and seventh, the par-three eighth and a solid closing birdie on the par-four ninth for an even-par 71. His 14-stroke improvement between rounds was easily the biggest in the field.
MILESTONE?: 2003 and 2011 champion Brett Wetterich played himself into contention Friday, adding a five-under 66 to his opening 68 on Thursday, and his eight-under 134 score has him tied for sixth.
Wetterich is the only player in Open history with two titles, and if he should win here he would claim a piece of Web.com Tour history. No player in the 24-year history of the Tour has ever won the same event three times. He's one of 12 who have won twice in the same event.
OTHER FORMER CHAMPS: Other than Wetterich, Friday was a struggle for most of the six former Open champions in the field. Only one other - 2001 champion and two-time runner-up Paul Claxton - will be around for the weekend.
Claxton posted a three-under 68 Friday, birdieing two of his final four holes to make the cut on the number at two-under 140.
2005 winner and former Lafayette resident Ryan Hietala and 2008 champion Gavin Coles both missed by two shots at even-par 142, while 2009 champion Bubba Dickerson was one more back at 143 and 2007 winner Skip Kendall finished at four-over 146.
STATS: For the second straight day, the par-four 13th and 14th holes were the toughest on the course, but they swapped position from Thursday when the 13th had the highest average. On Friday, the 14th played at a 4.444 average with only six birdies, 55 bogeys and seven double-bogeys or higher. The 13th played at 4.243 after ranking at 4.410 on Thursday. The 18th ranked third for the second day at 4.111.
Average score for the entire course, though, was almost two strokes lower than Thursday's mark, a 69.72 mark as compared to 71.54 on Thursday. Only seven holes played over par compared to 12 on Thursday.
Easiest holes were again the front-side par-fives, with the seventh playing at 4.542, the fifth at 4.563 and the first at 4.681. There were 21 eagles on Friday, making 38 for the tournament.
One of those eagles was the shot of the day, with Byron Smith holing out for an ace on the 191-yard sixth hole with a 7-iron. It was the 20th hole-in-one in tournament history and the sixth at the sixth hole.