Mar 22, 2013 11:03 PM by McD Media
Who said anything about the Web.com Tour being the haven for the young?
Don't tell PGA Tour veterans Darron Stiles and Arjun Atwal that. Both of them looked plenty young at heart here Friday in the second round of the $550,000 Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
The two led a birdie-fest at the Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club in the second round of the season's first U.S.-based Web.com Tour event. Stiles had eight birdies on his way to a seven-under-par 64, which gave him a one-stroke lead at the halfway point, while Atwal's adventurous six-under 65 round had eight birdies and an eagle.
Stiles has a one-stroke lead on the field at 11-under 131, with Atwal at 132, and they'll lead the charge into a rescheduled weekend and toward the $99,000 winners' share - a charge that won't include tournament favorite John Daly.
Three other players are one more stroke back at 133 and a fivesome stands at eight-under 134 entering Saturday's third round, one in which start times have been moved up in the face of possible adverse weather conditions during the afternoon. Play will be in threesomes off both the Nos. 1 and 10 tees beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, with the leaders going out at 10:30 a.m.
Daly won't be in that group after a shocking back side, where he triple-bogeyed the par-five 12th, double-bogeyed the par-four 13th and bogeyed the par-four 14th to see what was a seven-under-par score whittle down to one-under. He drove into water hazards on both 12 and 13.
The two-time major champion missed makeable birdie putts on 15 (10 feet), 16 (seven feet) and 17 (four feet after almost pitching in), and even rolling in an eight-footer for birdie on the 18th left him one short of the two-under-par cut line.
"I'm kind of in a shock thing, really," Daly said. "I missed one time on the 12th and had a mis-club into the bunker, and tried to blast out. Pretty much nothing went right there. On 13 I thought I hit a beautiful drive and it caught the end of the water, and next thing you know, a triple and a double and I really didn't miss any golf balls."
Daly finished with a two-over 73 after closing the front nine with four birdies out of five holes. A 20-footer on the ninth put him at seven-under for the tournament before his driver and putter both went sour over the final nine.
"I'm hitting the ball so good, I just didn't make a lot of putts," he said after a 32-putt round. "I can get over the triple and the double, but when you putt as bad as I did today that makes it tough. The last four holes, I thought I hit great putts on 15 and 16.
"I hung in there. It's just the funk that I'm in. If there were 14 holes on every golf course I would have won a lot more golf tournaments."
Stiles is sneaking up on his 40th birthday in just over two months, while Atwal hit that milestone two days ago. Both have played over 100 PGA Tour events, with Atwal having hit the winners' circle there in the 2010 Wyndham Championship.
Both opened the tournament with four-under 67 scores on Thursday, and both are experienced enough to know that solid scoring on Le Triomphe's four par-fives is the key to success.
"I think I'm eight-under on the par-fives this week," said Stiles, who birdied all four on Friday. "That's the key on this course. If you can get the par-fives, and then get one or two somewhere else, that's six a day and that will usually get it done."
"You absolutely have to take advantage of the par-fives here," said Atwal, whose Friday card listed two birdies and an eagle on that quartet. "There's no excuse not to birdie at least three of the four."
Stiles birdied four of his first eight holes, rolling in a sliding 27-footer on the difficult par-four 14th to jump-start the round.
"Fortunately, the hole got in the way," he said of his second birdie. "If not, I might have been chipping. It's straight downhill past the hole and it could easily have been 10 to 12 feet by. I think my caddie had the wedge ready for me."
He added a 12-footer for birdie on the 15th and was four-under before taking his only bogey on the 18th when he found the front bunker with the pin well back. But he came back with a six-footer for birdie on the par-five first hole, and had kick-in birdies on the par-five fifth and seventh before ending his round with a curling 20-footer on his wrapup ninth hole.
"That was a good way to finish," he said. "I've been playing well. I was the second alternate and didn't get in at Tampa (last week's PGA Tour Tampa Bay Championship), and I thought if I got in there that I would do well. You have to hit the fairways here and I drove it well today, but my iron game was a little more solid."
Stiles wasn't the only high-finisher to struggle on the 18th. Atwal put his drive into the right water hazard and ended up with a double-bogey six.
"That was kind of exciting," he said. "I blocked my tee shot right and then I had to drop way back. I still had 235 yards to the pin."
He rallied back with the eagle on the first hole, holing a 40-foot bomb after hitting 2-iron into the green, and added five more birdies coming in. That included a stirring run at the par-five seventh, the par-three eighth and the par-five ninth, the last two birdie putts from 15 and 12 feet that gave him the lead after the morning wave of players.
Atwal's roller-coaster card included only six pars, with a bogey on each side to go with the double on 18. But he more than made up for it by rolling in virtually every birdie opportunity.
"My putter got working," he said. "It was very similar to yesterday, I hit it good and made a few putts. I haven't been playing bad, I just wasn't getting any scores out of it."
The threesome of Jason Gore, Troy Merritt and Ben Martin are all two strokes back of Stiles, with that group shooting 65, 66 and 67 on a Friday when the Le Triomphe course played nearly a stroke and a half below par (69.72).
"I saw the scores early online before I played," Stiles said "but I wasn't paying attention. It's early."
"I have to be patient," Atwal said. "I'm 40 now."
Five players are one more stroke back at eight-under 134 including first-day co-leader Danny Ellis (65-69) and 2003 and 2011 Louisiana Open champion Brett Wetterich (68-66), who is bidding to become the first player in Web.com Tour history to win the same even three times.
Ellis shared the first-day lead with former LSU standout and 2011 NCAA champion John Peterson, but Peterson could only manage a one-over 72 on Friday and is tied for 19th at five-under 137.
"I birdied the first hole and everything was bad after that," Peterson said. "It was a struggle. It's tough to score in the afternoon and I didn't expect to go out and shoot 65 again. Putts were lipping out ... I was just slightly off."
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