WICHITA, Kan. -- Friday was a good day for past champions at the second round of the $500,000 Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open at Crestview Country Club.
|INSIDE THE NUMBERS|
|ELDER & HUGHES THRU 36 HOLES|
Two former champions, Brad Elder (1999) and Bradley Hughes (2004) finished the round at 13 under par and have a two-stroke lead over a group of three golfers that includes 2003 champion Jeff Klauk. Ben Bates (1997 winner) leads a group of five players who are three strokes off the pace.
Both Elder and Hughes finished strong at the 6,886-yard par-71 course. Elder's day ended with a birdie on No. 16, a tough up and down on No. 17 and an eagle on the final hole.
The 32-year-old out of the University of Texas won the event when it was held at Willowbend Golf Course before it moved to its current location. But a tie for fifth in 2004 in which he was the 54-leader gives him confidence returning to a town where he has won and a course where he has played well.
"It's a fun golf course. It fits my eye and I seem to play well when I come here," Elder said. "I had a chance to win three years ago here. I have good thoughts coming here."
Hughes' strong finish came with birdies on holes 7-9 as he finished his day on the front nine. The bogey-free 9-under 62 is the 40-year-old Aussie's lowest round of his four years on the Nationwide Tour and his seven years on the PGA TOUR. Hughes said his putter was the key, but after a frustrating season in which he has made just five of 16 cuts, returning to Wichita might have meant the most.
"I've been playing awful. I've struggled with my putter all year. I finally felt comfortable rolling the ball and that has helped everything else," he said. "I haven't done anything different this week. I've won here before. There's something comfortable about coming back here. I'm staying with some friends here that I met the year I won. We relax by the pool and it's more comfortable than a hotel room."
Hughes ranks tied for second in both putting average (1.500) and putts per round (24). For the year he ranks No. 155 and No. 154 in those categories, respectively.
First-round leader Nicholas Thompson and Justin Smith are also at 11 under par with Klauk after two rounds. Klauk is a native of Jacksonville, Fla., where his father Fred is the Head Superintendent at TPC Sawgrass. He has made the cut in 12 of the 16 events in which he has played this season, but needs a strong finish this weekend to move from No. 47 on the money list into 'The 25' to earn his 2008 PGA TOUR card.
The 29-year-old Florida Southern College standout won the Division II individual medalist honors by seven strokes. His victory in 2003, along with a tie for second in 2002 and a tie for 46th in 2004 make him the current money leader in tournament history.
Smith made it to the last stage of the PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament to earn a spot on the Nationwide Tour, but his 2007 season has been less than he had hoped. With limited status this season, the 25-year-old member of the University of Minnesota 2002 National Championship team needs a strong finish this week. But golf was put into perspective for Smith after the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed over the Mississippi River near his college campus in Minneapolis.
"When I figured out which bridge it was, it was shocking because it was right near where I lived a couple years. That stuff just shouldn't happen," he said. "I've got a bunch of friends who still live in the (Twin) Cities. I made several calls to make sure they were alright, and so far I haven't learned about anybody I know being involved with that."
Second-Round News & Notes: The cut came at 5-under-par 137 with 70 players advancing to the weekend.. There were 17 bogey-free rounds on Friday. ... 1997 winner Ben Bates has yet to record a bogey this week. ... The average score for Friday's second round finished 2.111 strokes under par at 68.889. It is the lowest second-round average in tournament history, the lowest single-round average for this event since the fourth round in 2003 and the lowest second-round average on Tour this year. ... Aron Price, Chris Baryla and Ryan Vermeer all recorded two eagles during their rounds. Each player eagled the two par 5s on the back nine (Nos. 14 and 18).