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June 3 2011

5:15 PM

Barnes plays another tough track well

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Ricky Barnes is in contention heading to the weekend at Muirfield Village.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

DUBLIN, Ohio – The words of that on-course announcer notwithstanding, Ricky Barnes is still looking for his first PGA TOUR win.

“Maybe they’re foreseeing something this week,” Barnes said, smiling. “I’m hoping.

And given his history of playing tough courses well, it wouldn’t be a shock to see it come at Muirfield Village, either.

Barnes has put himself in position through two rounds of the Memorial Tournament after a solid 70 on Friday moved him to 6 under and into a tie at the top of the leaderboard. He shared third in his debut there last year.

“When you step on courses that you play well you feel good once you get on the ground,” Barnes said. “A lot of the same this week – driving the ball well, putting myself in good positions and my distance control is pretty goods with my irons. I’m back to hitting it in the middle of the club face, and it definitely shows when I’m out there.”

Even so, Barnes didn’t get off to the kind of start he had hoped for on Friday, making bogeys on the third and fourth holes. But he turned things around quickly with a two-putt birdie from 38 feet at the par-5 fifth hole and an eagle at the seventh where he holed a shot from the bunker.

Barnes, who is playing in his fifth straight event, bogeyed the eighth to drop back to even for the day. But he made three birdies on the back while dropping just one shot to par.

“I thought there was good pins out there,” Barnes said. “There's enough good pins on each of the greens to kind of protect it. Even a few of the par‑5s, you know, 5 and 7, they're those front pins. I mean, I hit two great shots into 5 and still had about 25, 30 feet behind it. I beg to differ that there's going to be many closer guys because I played in the morning, greens were soft.

“And the ball wasn't traveling all that well this morning. There was a little chill in the air, and yesterday afternoon the ball was flying. We were hitting 3‑woods, I'm going to say, up in the 280 range.”

The Californian won the 2002 U.S. Amateur. But Barnes has taken a slower road to stardom than the man he beat in the finals there, Hunter Mahan.

Barnes spent several seasons on the Nationwide Tour before getting his TOUR card in 2009. His best finish on TOUR is a tie for second at the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black. He also has a pair of fourths this season at The Honda Classic and The Heritage.

“I’ve always liked a course that kind of par is your friend,” Barnes said. “You’re making pars even on what some people call easy holes. You’re not losing shots to the field.

“Even out here, you chip away a lot of pars and grind the round out and steal a few birdies. And that’s kind of what I did to get myself back into the round.”

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