By Laury Livsey, PGA TOUR staff
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It has been nothing but rounds in the 60s this week for Blayne Barber. At the Monday qualifier at Tennessee National Golf Club, Barber fired a 7-under 65 to qualify for the Web.com Tour’s News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot. He shot a 5-under 66 in the first round at Fox Den Country Club and came back with a 67 Friday. Meanwhile, Richard Scott is the only player in the field yet to make a bogey through 36 holes, and he joins Barber as the leaders at the halfway point of this 24th annual event. They are two strokes ahead of five players.
Both Barber and Scott have taken divergent paths this season to get to where they are this week. Barber is a non-Web.com Tour member who has played intermittently this season. He was seemingly tied for second at the halfway point in his last Tour start earlier this month, at the Mylan Classic outside Pittsburgh. Officials, however, disqualified him after he signed an incorrect scorecard. There was no mistake for Barber Friday as he recovered from a 1-over front nine by reeling off five birdies over his final nine holes. He punctuated his performance with a two-foot birdie putt on No. 18.
Scott has had something of a disappointing season, missing 13 cuts in his 19 previous starts. His best finish this season was a tie for 21st at the Utah Championship, where he had four rounds in the 60s for the only time this season.
Barber and Scott will play together in the final group Saturday, teeing off at 12:45 p.m. EDT.
“Today was really good,” Barber said of his round. “I got off to a slow start on the front (nine). I just re-evaluated when I made the turn and calmed down a little on the back nine. So it was a good day. There is still a lot of golf left. The goal is to put yourself in position going into the weekend, and I feel like I’m in a good spot.”
Barber has cobbled together a nice season as he’s searched for places to play. He has earned $56,405 on the NGA Hooters Tour, winning the Savannah Lakes Village Classic in McCormick, S.C., in early May. In his only made Web.com Tour cut prior to this week, he tied for sixth at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open in late March, pocketing a little more than $17,000.
“I’ve just been playing some good golf lately, going back to three weeks ago,” added Barber. “I feel like things are clicking, I’m playing well, so I’m just trying to keep that momentum going.”
Through 36 holes, Scott is the only player in the field who hasn’t made a bogey. He hit 16 of 18 greens Friday and only had one hole, the par-3 16th (his seventh of the day), where he had to scramble for par. “I’ve been pretty much in and around the hole and not in too many predicaments out here,” explained Scott, a University of Georgia product via Windsor, Ontario, Canada. “All year I’ve made enough birdies. I’ve just made too many mistakes. This week, I’ve put it together. I’m really looking forward to the weekend.”
Bunched in the group tied for third is first-round co-leader Tim Wilkinson. He shot a 1-under 70.
“I didn’t hit it as well today as I did yesterday. I made a couple of sloppy bogeys coming in,” Wilkinson said of his 2-over finish over his final four holes. “It wasn’t bad, the round. I just didn’t play the way I wanted to play.”
-- Blayne Barber open-qualified to gain entrance into the News Sentinel Open field. The last open-qualifier to go on to win a Web.com Tour event was Ted Potter, Jr., who won the 2011 South Georgia Classic in Valdosta.
-- Seven open-qualifiers made it to the weekend at the News Sentinel Open. Leading the way is co-leader Blayne Barber. Brandon Brown and Kyle Morris are both in the top 10. Brown, a Shelbyville, Ky., native, fired rounds of 69-67 to sit in a tie for eighth at 6-under. This is his second start of the season and first made cut. Morris is also tied for eighth, playing in only his second career Tour event (this is his first made cut). The Powell, Ohio, resident shot rounds of 69-67. The others to make the cut are Dominic Bozzelli and David Skinns (tied for 30th) and Derek Rende (tied for 44th).
-- Ryan Nelson, who earned a spot in this week’s field after finishing inside the top 25 at last week’s Price Cutter Charity Championship (tied for 19th), is making the most of his opportunity. He played a bogey-free round Friday, shooting a 4-under 67, and is tied for 20th going into the weekend. He has made three career Web.com Tour cuts, and the News Sentinel Open is his second start this year, marking the first time in his career he’s played more than one event in a season.
-- John Hurley began the 2013 News Sentinel Open with a 4-over 75 Thursday, playing conservatively and not hitting driver once in his first round. Knowing he needed to shoot a low number to make the cut, Hurley, a member of Texas A&M’s 2009 national championship team, fired a 7-under 64—the low round of the tournament—to finish inside the cutline and put himself in position for the weekend. His eight-birdie, one-bogey performance beat his career-best Web.com Tour round by three shots. He most recently shot a 67 at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, where he made his only other cut of the 2013 season.
-- Only one hole at Fox Den Country Club has yielded an eagle this week. The 10th hole has seen four eagles, with three coming in the second round. In the first round, only Matt Harmon made eagle at No. 10. In the second round, Brandon Brown (tied for eighth), Adam Hadwin (tied for 20th) and Matias O’Curry (missed cut) all made eagles at No. 10.
-- First-round co-leader and current Web.com Tour money-list leader Michael Putnam followed his opening 65 with a 3-over 74 Friday, bogeying his final two holes. He is tied for 44th, with his brother Andrew tied for eighth after Andrew shot a 69 to go with his opening 67.
-- Bogey-free rounds:
First Round (8): Reid Edstrom, Ashley Hall, Kent Jones, J.J. Killeen, Whee Kim, Peter Lonard, Richard Scott and Nate Smith
Second Round (13): Steven Alker, Jason Allred, Matt Bettencourt, Kelly Kraft, Andrew Loupe, Peter Malnati, Ryan Nelson, James Nitties, Andrew Putnam, Derek Rende, Richard Scott, Ryan Spears, Roland Thatcher
-- Eric Axley and Scott Pinckney both withdrew from the tournament Friday citing injuries. Axley pulled out during his round. Pinckney never began the second round.