By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
COLUMBUS, Ohio – A nearly devil-may-care approach may have fueled Tyrone Van Aswegen to his best round at the Nationwide Children’s Championship.
The South African, who missed the cut at the Web.com Tour Finals’ first two stops, finished off a 6-under-par 65 early Friday and went as low as 8-under before a rocky closing stretch in Friday’s blustery conditions that included a triple bogey at No.14.
He wound up with a 73 that took him to 4-under at the midway point, five shots behind leader Seung-Yul Noh.
“It’s been a long day,” Van Aswegen said. “Playing 27 holes in tough weather, mentally it kind of wears you out. My game feels good; [I need to] just get some rest and come out tomorrow and do it again.”
Van Aswegen’s opening 65 was five shots lower than anything else he’d posted in two previous trips to Ohio State’s Scarlet course.
Despite having some serious ground to make up in his quest for one of the final 25 PGA TOUR cards to be awarded this year, the San Diego resident said he arrived this week feeling less pressure than the first two Finals stops.
“Coming into the playoffs, you want to play well so badly, you almost hype yourself up too much,” he said. “That works against you when you do that.
“When you miss both cuts, you almost have nothing to lose now. That’s the way I saw it – if I hit it bad, I hit it bad. There’s nothing you can do. You try your best to prepare for a tournament and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”
COMING UP EMPTY: This certainly wasn’t what Ben Curtis had in mind when he decided to enter the NCC as a way to stay sharp.
The former British Open champion, with next year’s PGA TOUR card already secure from winning the 2012 Texas Open, got in just nine holes Thursday and played 27 in Friday’s blustery weather. Rounds of 74-72 left him two shots behind the cut line.
“I didn’t hit it that great. I wasn’t expecting to, either,” said Curtis, an Ohio native who resides 2 ½ hours from Columbus. “I had a couple of good wedges, a couple of bad ones. I hit about two good drives. It was just kind of up-and-down. But it’s golf; it’ll come.”
After finishing 153rd in FedExCup points during the regular season, Curtis was eligible for the Finals even though he has another year’s exemption from the winners’ category. Whatever money he earned would not have counted on the money list that determines the final 25 PGA TOUR cards and entry seeding.
Curtis said he won’t enter the Finals finale in two weeks at TPC Sawgrass, opting just to practice until the new season opens next month at the Frys.com Open.
CLUTCH PERFORMANCE: Hudson Swafford, in jeopardy of missing the weekend after an opening 74, rebounded with a Friday 67 that matched the day’s best until Noh came along.
It was good enough to lift the former University of Georgia standout 82 spots on the leaderboard, into a tie for 17th.
“It was probably one of the biggest rounds for myself of the year,” said Swafford, who arrived in Columbus on the bubble for the last couple of PGA TOUR cards to be handed out after the Finals.
“This round was big, yeah. After 3-over you’re like, ‘Shoot, I’ve got to play well tomorrow. But at least it played hard to where I knew if I shot 2-under, it’d be a great round. I was lucky enough to get two more than that, so I’m very satisfied with what I did today.”
Swafford got a bit of a boost from a later start than others on his side of the draw. He was one of five golfers in that wave who completed their afternoon rounds on Thursday, giving him an extra hour than those who had first rounds to resume.
“I got to sleep in a little bit, miss the crowd [on the range], got to eat in peace,” he said. “Yeah, it wasn’t a rush this morning. I just told myself to stay patient and get off to a good start.”
HAPPY TO WAIT: Chesson Hadley, two shots back and alone in second after a 67, didn’t mind Friday’s extra wait to let the other side of the draw complete its rounds.
“I was looking at the scores all morning, and I knew it was brutal,” said Hadley, No.4 on the regular-season money list. “I got a great draw with the tee times because it was cold and windy this morning. You could just tell by the scores – it was just brutal.”
Hadley jump-started his round with a pair of long-distance birdies at Nos. 13 and 17, each of which he judged at more than 35 feet.
“Those are huge momentum builders,” he said, “because those could easily be three-putts with how tough these greens are.”