By Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour staff
PANAMA CITY, Panama – South Korea’s Dae-Hyun Kim fired a 2-under 68 early Friday and grabbed a two-shot lead at the midway point of the Panama Claro Championship, the first tournament on the 2013 Web.com Tour schedule.
New Jersey’s Kevin Foley (69) shares second place at 5-under with Len Mattiace at the hot and windy Panama Golf Club, traditionally one of the toughest layouts on tour each year.
Eight players are jammed together at 4-under 136, including 2008 champion Scott Dunlap (66) along with first-round co-leader Mark Anderson (72) and Australia’s Aron Price (66).
A total of 64 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 2-over 142 and marked the ninth time in the 10-year history of the tournament that the cut was over par.
Kim is making his first career start on Tour but is no stranger to tournament golf. The 24-year old was a regular on the Korean Tour from 2009-12 and one of the leading money winners on that circuit. His only appearance on the PGA TOUR came in 2011 when he qualified for the U.S. Open at Congressional CC but missed the cut after posting scores of 79-74.
“One of my goals is to get to the PGA TOUR,” said Kim through an interpreter. “I also want to gain some experience playing more golf courses in the United States. I haven’t played many times in the U.S.”
Kim’s American resume consists of the Open, Q-school in California last winter and one junior tournament in Texas a while back. He has, however, traveled to San Diego four times over the past few winters to practice.
“There are many people from Korea in the area so the change in culture doesn’t bother me too much.”
Kim hasn’t been bothered by much in taking over the leaderboard. His short game has been the focus of his offseason work and he is fearless off the tee.
“Ever since I was younger I’ve been good off the tee,” he said. “I am more comfortable with it and have much more confidence with my driver. My accuracy is better with my driver than with many of my other clubs.”
Foley, making his first stop in Panama, says you have to be smart this week.
“You can’t really overpower this course,” he said. “Step one is putting it in play. There’s a lot out there that could sneak up on you pretty fast if you lose track by being too aggressive. Smart, strategic golf will pay dividends.”
Second-round notes & quotes:
• Friday weather: mostly sunny, wind N 10-20 mph and a high of 93.
• Saturday’s third-round play will be in twosomes off the first tee. Times range from 8:06 a.m. to 1 p.m.
• This week’s total purse is $600,000 with $108,000 to the winner.
• Tripp Isenhour owns the tournament’s 36-hole record. He posted scores of 63-67--130 (10-under) in 2006.
• With this week’s cut coming at 2-over, the 36-hole cut has been above par nine times in the tournament’s 10 years. Last year’s cut was at 4-over. The highest cut in tournament history was 5-over in 2008. The lowest cut in tournament history was 1-under in 2010.
• First-round co-leaders Mark Anderson (64-72) and Andrew Loupe (64-74) both struggled in the afternoon winds. Loupe rallied with birdies on his final two holes while Anderson admitted that he got a bit frustrated with his play.
“I’m not happy with the way I played but I’m still in there and everybody will be playing the same golf course tomorrow,” he said. “I just didn’t putt very good. I missed some short putts early in the round. The few chances I had and then not making them was frustrating and then really not having as many opportunities as I did yesterday was also frustrating because I was getting used to making a lot of birdies. Unfortunately I couldn’t get it going again today.
“The wind made it tough but the course also firmed up quite a bit and it got a lot faster as a result. That makes it tough to get it close to these pins. The golf course is tough, especially with the wind in the afternoon. The guy who plays best in the afternoon in the wind is going to be the guy who wins this week.”
• Veteran Scott Dunlap, the 2008 champion, fired a bogey-free 66 Friday morning and moved into contention at 4-under 136. Dunlap says the Panama Golf Club is one of his favorites but also admits players have to be patient around the 7,171-yard track:
“If you start going pin-chasing too much if you don’t get off to a very good start then 2-over becomes five,” he said. “It’s like U.S. Open scoring It’s not the first one to 20-under wins here. On this golf course you know in your mind that if you shoot two-under every day and you weren’t hoisting the trophy that somebody played great.
“It’s just so good. I love this course. There’s enough nervy stuff and enough stuff to keep your attention. If you drive it in the rough then you can’t control the spin and you’re probably not going to hit the green. You can make bogey out of anywhere.
“Like good member’s courses, it’s not over water hazards and the course is right there in front of you. The ladies can play it on Tuesday and then we have a tournament here and it’s more than testing. It’s perfect.”
• Joe Durant, who turns 49 in April, made a run at the leaders with a bogey-free, 5-under 65 that included an eagle at the par-5, fourth hole. Durant’s round moved him to 3-under (T12) and left him looking forward to the weekend.
“I played great. I drove it good and you’ve got to around here because you can’t hit it out of the rough and hold these greens,” he said. “I hate to say I left a couple out there but I did lip a couple putts out. I played very well. It dries out and the course gets very quick and when it does that all of your mistakes are magnified. I kind of felt it coming but you never if or when it actually is coming.
“I hit driver, 3-iron to 20 feet behind the hole on No. 6 and it was lightning-quick and I’m glad it hit the hole because it might have gone off the green. It was straight downhill and picking up speed as it went in. It was right in the middle but if it missed it would have easily been at least 15 feet by.”
• Players who were bogey-free in the second round:
65 – Joe Durant
66 – Scott Parel
67 – Gavin Coles
68 – Brett Stegmaier
• Best rounds of the day:
64 – Jim Herman
65 – Joe Durant, Len Mattiace
66 – Scott Dunlap, Manuel Merizalde, Scott Parel, Aron Price, B.J. Staten
• Omar Tejeira, a member of the Panama Golf Club, is the first amateur to compete in this event. Tejeira played college golf at St. Thomas University, an NAIA school in Miami, Fla. He won seven times during his collegiate career, was a conference medalist and was named The Sun Conference Player of the Year following his junior season. He also became the first Bobcat to be named First-Team All-American in golf in 2012. Tejeira missed the cut this week with scores of 81-72--153.
• Head club pro Mike Norman was making his ninth start in this event. Norman fired rounds of 74-72--146 and missed the cut.
• Three of the five most recent tournament champions made the cut this week:
2007 Miguel Carballo 69-73-142 (+2)
2008 Scott Dunlap 70-66-136 (-4)
2010 Fran Quinn 74-73-147 (+7) MC
2011 Mathew Goggin 69-67-136 (-4)
2012 Edward Loar 72-74-146 (+6) MC
• The top-5 money winners from PGA TOUR LatinoAmerica’s fall series earned their way onto the Web.com Tour this season. Here’s how the group fared over the first two days:
1. Ariel Canete 69-76-145 (+5) MC
2. Oscar Fraustro 69-73-142 (+2)
3. Clodomiro Carranza 67-75-142 (+2)
4. Matias O’Curry 79-73-152 (+12) MC
5. Tommy Cocha 73-73-146 (+6) MC
• This is the eighth time that the Panama Claro Championship has been the initial event on the Web.com Tour schedule. The Tour first came to Panama in 2004 and led off the year in Central America from 2004-09, 2011 and again this year. In 2010, the Tour started at the Michael Hill New Zealand Open (Queenstown) and last year opened the season at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship in Bogota.
• The Web.com Tour will head to South America next week for the Colombia Championship at Bogota Country Club Feb. 28-Mar. 3. Last year, Skip Kendall rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to win by one stroke over Andres Gonzales and Andrew Svoboda and collect his third career title. Kendall fired an even-par 71 on Sunday to finish at 10-under 274. Next week’s winner will earn $126,000 from the $700,000 purse.