Horschel leads at midway point of the season opener

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Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
Billy Horschel takes a two-shot lead into the weekend.
February 17, 2012
Joe Chemycz, Nationwide Tour staff

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Billy Horschel was all smiles this time around. The former Florida Gator rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on his final hole Friday for a second straight round of 66 in the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship. Horschel missed a two-footer on his closing hole Thursday and was hoping the miss wouldn't come back to haunt him.

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His opening day 66 was good enough for a share of the first-round lead in the Nationwide Tour's 2012 season opener.

Three birdies in his four holes at the Country Club of Bogota Friday morning broke the tie and moved Horschel into sole possession of the lead. He finished the day with six birdies and one bogey, which came on the par-4, 9th hole, the same place his putting hiccup occurred a day earlier.

"I was really trying to get through without a bogey today," he said. "Overall, it was a good day."

Horschel's 10-under 132 total broke the tournament's 36-hole record and also left him two shots in front of Californian Brian Smock, who bogeyed his final hole for a round of 68.

Rookie Erik Flores, making his first career start on Tour, also shot a 3-under 68 and shows no signs of the jitters. His 7-under 135 score puts him for third with Australian Michael Sim.

Andrew Svoboda (66) and first-round co-leader Peter Lonard (70) share fifth place, four shots back.

"You want to play well after a round like yesterday, but it's always tough because sometimes the putts don't go in," said Horschel. "Not that I had a really low round but sometimes it's difficult to follow up a decent round with another decent one. I made a couple of early birdies but then a few putts just slipped out, and that's going to happen."

Horschel says his biggest concern Friday was trying to slow things down.

"I'm a fast player by nature. I talk fast, I walk fast, I move fast," he said. "Everything I do is quick. I just have to go to the range and try go at a slower speed. When you've got shots out there and you don't want to miss it in a certain spot, you get a little quick."

Smock, meantime, is finding his game rounding into better shape after changing his style of play.

Interview: Billy Horschel

The 36-hole leader talks about his second-straight 66 in Colombia.

"Everyone evaluates from one year to the next. I played pretty poorly for the most part last year," he said. "I had a couple of good tournaments but that was it."

Smock made only 10 cuts in 23 starts in 2011 but still managed to finish No. 42 on the money list thanks to three top-10s. During his time off he changed coaches and the way he plays. The fade is gone and a draw is now the preferred trajectory.

"The cut just got shorter and shorter and more off line," he said. "The last couple of years I was fading the ball and it got to the point last year where it became weaker and weaker. I'm more solid now."

Second-Round Notes:

• Friday's weather: Mostly cloudy. High of 64. Winds NW 5-10. A brief period of rain showers at 3 p.m.

• A total of 73 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 1-over 143.

• This year's first two rounds are nearly identical to those in the first year of the tournament. In 2010, the 36-hole leader was 8-under par, the cut came at 1-over par and 73 players made the cut. This year, the leader is at 10-under (second place is 8-under), the cut came at 1-over par and 73 players made the cut. Steve Pate won the tournament two years ago with an 11-under 273 total.

• Among those missing the cut this week: Camilo Benedetti (144), Diego Vanegas (144), Josh Broadaway (145), Aaron Watkins (146), Jeff Gove (147), Len Mattiace (147), Carlos Franco (149), Russell Henley (150) and Scott Dunlap (150).

• Earlier in the week, former President Bill Clinton was in town to play in the Wednesday Pro-Am. D.J. Brigman, the Chairman of the Nationwide Tour Players Advisory Council, had the honor playing with President Clinton and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Joining them were Jose Francisco Arata, the president and executive director of Pacific Rubiales Energy, the tournament sponsor, and German Calle, the tournament executive director. Brigman has carded back-to-back scores of 69 and is T11 heading into the weekend.

• Defending champion Brenden Pappas posted a 4-over 75 in the second round after opening with a 68. His 1-over 143 total made the cut on the number.

• Australian Michael Sim, the 2009 Nationwide Tour Player of the Year, matched the tournament record with four consecutive birdies. Sim's string came on holes 7-10. Sim closed his round with three straight birdies for a 6-under 65. He is tied for third.

Martin Piller was one of the last players to make the cut. The former Texas A&M standout overcame a triple-bogey on the par-5, 8th hole.

Steven Bowditch was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.

• Lift, clean and place conditions were in effect for the second straight day.

Front 9 (35) Back 9 (36) Total (71)
Round 1 35.750 36.792 72.542
Round 2 35.307 35.978 71.285

• Scoring averages for the week:

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