By Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour staff
SAO PAULO, Brazil – New Zealand’s Danny Lee fired a second straight 6-under 65 Friday and moved into sole possession of the clubhouse lead in the rain-delayed Brasil Classic presented by HSBC.
Following a 3 ½ -hour rain delay to start play, Lee rattled off eight birdies at the Sao Paulo Golf Club and settled in at 12-under 130, five shots better than anyone else who has completed 36 holes.
South African Dawie van der Walt (66), Australia’s Aron Price (65) and local pro Phillipe Gasnier (68) are done at 7-under 135 while Michael Putnam (65), first-round co-leader Tom Hoge (71) and Oklahoma State’s Kevin Tway (69) are next at 6-under 136.
Half the field is still on the course and will return early Saturday to finish round two, which was played under lift, clean and place conditions after 1.45 inches of rain fell early in the day.
Sweden’s Richard S. Johnson is 4-under thru 11 holes and is 10-under par and tops those still playing.
Jonathan Hodge, Tim Wilkinson and Sao Paulo native Alex Rocha are all 7-under par with plenty of holes to go.
Two weeks ago Lee was under the weather and considered not playing in the Monday qualifier for the PGA TOUR’s Shell Houston Open but decided he’d give it a try. Out of the bad came the good.
“I could not aim properly with my putter,” said Lee. “I just decided to line the ball up on my putts.”
It was something the 22-year old Lee had done during a stellar amateur career that included the 2008 U.S. Amateur title, which displaced Tiger Woods as the youngest ever to win the event.
“I don’t know why I stopped,” said Lee. “I shot only two-under in Houston but it kind of clicked for me.”
Lee is suddenly comfortable on the greens again and appears ready to reclaim a spot on the PGA TOUR but first he’ll have to settle his nerves.
Lee was the first-round leader at the Colombia Championship last month but posted consecutive 74s and dropped to T44. He was two strokes off the lead at the midpoint of the Chile Classic the next week but had to settle for a tie for sixth when he failed to muster a charge on the leaders.
In his last start at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open two weeks ago, he was again in the top-10 after 36 holes but a 72-74 weekend dropped him to T52.
“I put too much pressure on myself, but who doesn’t? You’re in contention and if you shoot two more good rounds you could be holding a trophy,” he said. “I was thinking ahead of myself and instead of hitting the golf ball I was thinking about holding the trophy. I know I’m good enough to make that happen.”
Lee was cruising along nicely Friday until he reached the 545-yard, 8th hole, his 17th of the day. With a 10-20 mph wind in his face and water guarding the right side of the green, Lee decided to play conservatively.
“I was trying to lay up. I had 217 yards to the water and there was no way I could get a 3-iron there,” he said. “I misjudged the wind, it was left to right.”
Lee salvaged a bogey after hitting the water and then knocked in a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-3 ninth to polish off his day.
“My body feels good and my game feels good right now,” said Lee. “My putting has been really good for two days. I’m taking my time more with my putts and it’s working.”
Van der Walt was challenging Lee and put six birdies and an eagle on the board to reach 10-under par through 15 holes but three-putted twice down the stretch and wound up with a 5-under 66.
“I hit the ball really good all day today,” he said. “I felt like I had a lot of chances, almost every hole.”
His big hiccup came at the last – the 175-yard, 9th – where he pushed his tee shot to the right and into a greenside bunker.
“I looked up and all I could see was out of bounds over the green,” said the transplanted Texan. “I didn’t hit a very good shot and then I’ve 20 feet or so. I was trying to so hard to make par that I never thought about a double.”
His first putt charged five feet past the cup and he missed the next one coming back.
Second-Round Notes & Quotes:
• Friday weather: Rain in the morning. Rainfall total of 1.45” Mostly cloudy and windy in the afternoon. Winds N 10-20 mph. High of 75.
• The start of the second round was delayed 3 ½ hours because of morning rain showers. Play was originally set to begin at 6:30 a.m. but started at 10:00 a.m. The last tee time was 4:40 p.m. Play was suspended for the day because of darkness at 5:52 p.m.
• Lift, clean and place conditions are in effect for round two.
• As a result of the morning delay, 72 players did not complete the second round. They will return to the course and resume play (in position) at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. The third round is scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m. with play off the 1st and 10th tees in threesomes.
• Ewan Porter (75) and Chris De Forest (80) withdrew prior to the start of the second round.
• Looking ahead at the 36-hole cut, there are currently 71 players at 2-under par or better.
• Dawie van der Walt, 30, earned a win last month at the inaugural Tshwane Open on the Southern Africa Tour. The tournament was co-sanctioned by the European Tour with prize money counting towards that Tour’s “Race to Dubai”.
Van der Walt was one of four co-leaders after 54 holes at the Copper Leaf Golf and Country Estate in Centurion, South Africa and then fired a 67 on the last day to beat veteran Darren Fichardt by two shots.
• Phillipe Gasnier is a 33-year old conditional member of the PGA TOUR’s LatinoAmerica Tour. He was born in Rio de Janeiro and now lives in Orlando, Fla.
Gasnier finished T8 in the Mundo Maya Open (Mexico) to begin the season last fall but that was his only top-10 in seven starts. He has missed the cut in both of his starts in 2013. His only start on the PGA TOUR came at the 2008 U.S. Open, where he missed the cut.
• Rafael Barcellos bogeyed his final two holes for an even-par 71 and a 5-under 137 total. Barcellos, 41, is one of the teaching professionals at the Sao Paulo Golf Club who regularly plays on the Brazilian Tour. He was a member of Brazil’s 2009 World Cup team.
• Host professional Erik Andersson birdied his next-to-last hole to wind up a 3-under par 139, which should be more than enough to play the final 36 holes in front of his club members.
• Fernando Mechereffe is in his second full season as a member of the Web.com Tour. The 2004 North Carolina State graduate grew up some 875 miles from Sao Paulo in the southern state of Rio Grande. His hometown of Pelotas is about 80 miles from the Uruguayan border.
Mechereffe tied for 13th at the Chile Classic a few weeks ago and his making only his second start in 2013. He made 11 cuts in 24 starts last year and wound up No. 90 on the Tour money list.
• Kevin Tway, 24, is a conditional member of the Web.com Tour making his first start of the year. The former OSU Cowboy holed out from the bunker on his final hole to close with back-to-back birdies and 2-under 69. Tway made the cut in two of four starts last year and finished T5 at the Miccosukee Championship.
|There are four former U.S. Amateur Champions competing this week:|
|The five graduates of the PGA TOUR LatinoAmerica Tour are all competing this week.|
|There are a total of 11 players from Brazil competing this week:|
|Course statistics for the week:|
• Did you know: Sao Paulo is considered the financial capital of Brazil and has a metropolitan population of approximately 27 million people, making it the third largest metro area in the world, behind only Tokyo and Jakarta. Sao Paulo was founded in 1554 by Jesuit missionaries and is located on a plateau, some 2,621 feet above sea level. Temperatures are similar to Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia.
• The Web.com Tour returns to the United States for next week’s WNB Golf Classic at Midland (TX) Country Club, April 8-14. This will be the Tour’s 12th visit to Midland CC and the 21st consecutive year playing in the Permian Basin. Last year, Luke Guthrie fired a 6-under 66 in the final round and rallied from five strokes down to win for the second time in as many weeks. Guthrie finished at 17-under par and held on to beat Cameron Percy and defending champion Danny Lee by one stroke. With his win, Guthrie moved to No. 1 on the money list.