By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Shawn Stefani remains at the head of the pack after two rounds of the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank, but he’ll have to hold off some more accomplished names on the weekend.
Stefani followed up his opening 65 at Innisbrook Resort with a 1-under-par 70, leaving him one stroke ahead of Adam Scott and two-time champion K.J. Choi. Jason Dufner is among those another shot back.
“The lead is one thing, but leading on the weekend is another,” said Stefani, a 31-year-old rookie who won twice last year on the Web.com Tour.
“Today I just wanted to go out there and play golf and hit each shot the best I could and really have some fun. That’s really what I did. I really had a lot of fun out there, even though I didn’t really play my best.”
Stefani still produced three birdies on the Copperhead course, his last at the par-3 15th that put him alone in front among the morning groups.
Choi eventually pulled even with his own birdie at No. 15, but couldn’t save par after missing the green at No. 16.
“This course is very comfortable for me,” said the Korean pro, who won the event in 2002 and '06 when it was part of the fall schedule.
Stefani reached the tournament’s halfway checkpoint at 7-under 135. Scott moved up the board quickly with a bogey-free 66 that was one shot off the day’s best.
“To go bogey-free anywhere is good, and I think (to do it) here is particularly good,” the Aussie said. “It’s quite a tricky golf course, and mistakes are easily made.”
Dufner also carded a 66 to move within two of the lead. He was joined by Harris English (69) and lefty Brian Harman (70), former University of
Georgia teammates who have been snakebit on their closing holes.
Both ex-Bulldogs closed with bogeys – one day after they fell from a share of the lead with English’s double bogey and Harman’s bogey.
“You’ve just got to stay so patient out there,” Harman said. “I just missed in a couple of bad spots, and I paid for it.”
Sergio Garcia closed within three shots after posting a 67. Jordan Spieth, runner-up at last week’s Puerto Rico Open after leaving the University of Texas in December, was in striking distance again after a 68 pushed him to within five.
Also moving within five is Erik Compton, the heart-transplant pro whose 65 was the day’s best and jumped him 101 spots on the leaderboard.
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM contributor
PALM HARBOR, Fla. – One day after posting his first overnight PGA TOUR lead, Shawn Stefani has a chance for a second after a 1-under-par 70 at the Tampa Bay Championship left him one shot ahead of Adam Scott.
Stefani drained a 14-foot putt at No. 13 for the last of his three birdies, reaching the halfway checkpoint at 7 under. Scott sizzled with five birdies in a bogey-free 66.
“To go bogey-free anywhere is good,” Scott said, “and I think [to do it] here is particularly good. It’s quite a tricky golf course, and mistakes are easily made.”
Ask Harris English and Brian Harman, who for the second straight day stumbled on their finishing holes. English bogeyed No. 9 to post a 69 and Harman did likewise at the 18th for a 70, leaving them two shots off the pace at 5-under.
The former University of Georgia teammates were part of a four-way tie for third, alongside Jason Dufner (66) and Tag Ridings (through nine holes).
Jordan Spieth, runner-up at last week’s Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com, was in striking distance again after a 68 pushed him to three shots off the lead. Also there is Erik Compton, the heart-transplant pro whose 65 was the day’s best and jumped him 98 spots on the leaderboard.
Defending champion Luke Donald was among those in the afternoon wave, trying to bounce back from an opening 70 in which he bogeyed three of his final four holes. Other afternoon notables include U.S. Open titleholder Webb Simpson, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk and two-time Tampa champion K.J. Choi.
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Shawn Stefani shot a 1-under 70 in Friday's second round of the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank. That left him at 7 under through 36 holes and the clubhouse leader midway through Friday.
Here's what Stefani said following his round:
THOUGHTS ON HIS ROUND: "Today was a little bit more of a struggle ball‑striking. Didn't really drive it super great. Didn't hit some of the best iron shots. But scrambled well and I putted really great. So you know, when you putt good, that usually keeps rounds going, and that was pretty much what happened today with the result of my 1‑under par."
NERVOUS AFTER BEING FIRST-ROUND LEADER?: "I wasn't any more nervous than I am any round. I think I'm always a little bit excited about playing and I get a little nervous, which I enjoy. I think that's the competitor in me. There wasn't really any time today where I got, you know, really nervous or excited I guess."
PERSPECTIVE GOING INTO SECOND ROUND: "I knew it was
Friday, and the lead is one thing, but leading on the weekend is another. And today I just wanted to go out
there and play golf and hit each shot the best I could and really have some
fun. That's really what I did. I really had a lot of fun out there today,
even though I didn't really play my best but I scrambled well. That was a lot of fun today."
To replay Stefani's round on Shot Tracker, click here
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Compared to the bios of PGA TOUR rookies who have commandeered the spotlight this season, you’d have to call Shawn Stefani a late bloomer.
He turned professional eight years ago, kicking around the lower tours for six seasons until finally landing a roster spot on the Web.com Tour last year. From there, he’s been making up for lost time.
Two wins last season earned him a PGA TOUR card, and Thursday’s 6-under-par 65 produced a two-shot lead after the first round of the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank.
“I didn’t start learning the real important parts of the game until later in life,” said the 31-year-old Texan. “And I’m not talking about techniques or swings or whatever. I’m talking about the mental side of it.
“Everybody out here has the physical ability and at this level, (the difference) is mostly mental. The guys who are the best mentally are really the guys who are the best players.”
Stefani’s point rang through on Thursday. Though cold breezes later gave way to calmer conditions at Innisbrook Resort, he still finished with one of just two bogey-free rounds. He never had to sweat over a par save longer than 4-and-a-half feet.
“If you can hit some good shots into these greens and give yourself some good looks,” he said, “you’ll definitely be able to make a few putts.”
Stefani’s round matched a 65 last week at the Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com as his lowest TOUR round. The week also produced his best finish to date, with a tie for 39th.
Rookies already have made quite a mark on the season, topped by Russell Henley’s triumph in at the Sony Open in Hawaii in his first PGA TOUR start. Scott Langley also played in the Sony Open’s final group, and Luke Guthrie finished third at The Honda Classic.
All of those, though, are in their early 20s.
“Everybody kind of goes and hits their stride differently,” Stefani said. “I’m more of a patient guy and just kind of wait for things to happen. I know eventually things will start clicking, and I’ve really been close to playing good all year.”
Stefani’s last name, by the way, is pronounced the same as “Stephanie.” It frequently gets mispronounced as “steff-AH-nee,” same as lead singer Gwen Stefani of the band No Doubt.
“Some people call me Gwen. I’ve never had a big issue with it,” said Stefani, whose own musical tastes run more toward George Strait. “It’s kind of fun.”
Stefani did admit that he has a few wedges stamped with either “No Doubt” or one of the group’s album titles “Hollaback.”
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- Rookie Shawn Stefani avoided the snares that befell others in Thursday’s closing stretch at the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank, firing a 6-under-par 65 that was good for a two-stroke lead over Brian Harman.
Stefani compiled six birdies in his first 14 holes at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead course, then parred his way in to end the day with his first PGA TOUR lead.
“I stayed patient all day,” said the Houston pro, who matched his low round on TOUR established last week at the Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com. “I kind of fought through some not-so-good shots toward the end of the day. It all worked out.”
The 31-year-old rookie, who won twice on the Web.com Tour last season, left himself no par save longer than 4 feet all day. His 22-foot birdie putt at Innisbrook’s third hole moved him to 5 under, moving him to the top as Harman (67) ended his day with a bogey at No. 9.
Stefani later extended his lead to two with a birdie at the par-5 fifth.
Harman, though, wasn’t the only leader to stumble at the end.
Former University of Georgia teammate Harris English also stood 5 under as he reached the 18th tee, but walked off with a double bogey after finding a greenside bunker and following with a three-putt.
Defending champion Luke Donald got to 4 under with four holes to play in the morning groups, but bogeyed three of those. Brendan Steele likewise gave back a shot after reaching 4 under.
Steele, English and Tag Ridings were tied for third after 68s. K.J. Choi, a two-time winner at Innisbrook, and 2004 champion Vijay Singh were among eight golfers another stroke back.