By Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour staff
VALDOSTA, Ga. – Hudson Swafford fired a 5-under 67 Friday and grabbed the 36-hole at the South Georgia Classic presented by First State Bank and Trust Co. Swafford’s bogey-free effort put him at 8-under 136 and one stroke in front of Michael Putnam (68), Andrew Loupe (68), Will Claxton (66), D.J. Brigman (67) and Bhavik Patel (70).
Brazil’s Alex Rocha (71), Monday qualifier Nick Rousey (70), Tennessee’s Philip Pettitt (72), Troy Merritt (72) and first-round leader Ryan Spears (73) are knotted at 5-under 139 after two trips around the Kinderlou Forest Golf Club, which measures 7,781 yards and is the longest on the Web.com Tour.
Fan favorite John Daly rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on his final hole late in the day to finish at even-par 144 and make the cut on the number.
“You’ve got to hit it well out here. It’s not a putting contest like some other courses. You’ve got to do everything well,” said Swafford, who has hit 29 of 36 greens. “You’ve got to be patient. Pars are good out here. Most of the golf courses we play, if you’re not making birdie every other hole, you’re losing ground.”
Swafford slowly moved to the front by sticking with a game plan that he and his caddie worked on early in the week.
“We came out early and talked about where we can be aggressive and where we can’t,” he said. “There are a lot of par holes. The fairways are generous but these greens are tough. Hitting it long is definitely an advantage.”
Swafford also thinks he may have a bit of a home course advantage. The former Georgia All-America grew up in Tallahassee, Fla., which is about 75 miles to the southwest.
“This is like a home event for me,” said Swafford, who is staying with former Bulldog quarterback John Lastinger, a Valdosta native. “I’ve got friends and family here. My fiancé and her family are here. It’s a relaxing week.”
Michael Putnam is no stranger to the leaderboard. This is his 130th career start on the Web.com Tour and the 25th time he’s been in the top-3 after either the 1st, 2nd or 3rd round. He has 20 career top-10 finishes and his lone victory came at the 2010 Utah Championship.
“The person that putts the best always wins but I would rather hit it long than short on this golf course,” he said. “It’s about the iron play. It’s pretty open here. The fairways are generous but the greens are tricky.”
Putnam is No. 19 on the current money list thanks to three top-15 finishes in six starts – T15 Colombia Championship, T6 Chitimacha Louisiana Open and T10 Brasil Classic.
Second-Round Notes & Quotes:
-- Friday weather: Mostly sunny. Winds NE 7-15 mph. High of 82.
-- This week’s purse is $650,000 with $117,000 going to the champion.
-- Tim Wilkinson was disqualified prior to the start of the second round. The lefty from New Zealand had signed an incorrect scorecard on Thursday and discovered the mistake before he teed off Friday.
-- Garth Mulroy withdrew during the second round due to a neck injury.
-- A total of 65 players made the cut, which came at even-par 144. This is the third straight year that the 36-hole cut was at even par.
-- Hudson Swafford had never held/shared the lead after the 1st, 2nd or 3rd round in any of his previous 32 career starts on the Web.com Tour. The closest he’s been to the lead came at last year’s News Sentinel Open in Knoxville, where he was T2 after 36 holes. Swafford was two back of leader Erik Flores but weekend scores of 70-73 dropped him all the way back to a T41 finish.
-- Swafford fired four sub-par scores in this event last year and wound up T18.
-- Will Wilcox’s 6-under 66 was the low round of the day. Wilcox improved from his 1-under 71 in the opening round by making a simple adjustment with his putter.
“It was just the opposite of what everybody tells you to do,” he said. “I made my grip pressure firmer and that was it. I don’t know what happened. It just worked.”
The difference on the greens for two days was evident. He had 33 putts the first day and only 27 on Friday.
-- Monday qualifier Eric Axley, winner of the 2006 Valero Texas Open on the PGA TOUR, is making his first start on this Tour since 2010. Axley leads the field with the fewest bogeys through the first two days – one. Axley posted a bogey-free, 1-under 71 on Thursday and had four birdies and a bogey Friday during his round of 69. He is at 4-under and T12. Axley advanced to the weekend for the first time on this Tour since the 2006 Henrico County Open (T17). The lefty from Knoxville was 0-2 in 2009 and 0-5 in 2010.
-- Lee Bedford and Heath Slocum lead the field in driving accuracy, hitting 27 of 28 fairways. Bedford, a rookie from Wake Forest, has also hit 29 of 36 greens in regulation (T5). His scores of 70-73 include 65 putts (T148).
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-- Did you know that Valdosta was incorporated in December of 1860. The city is about 230 miles south of the state capitol of Atlanta and almost the same distance north of Orlando, Fla. The city is approximately 15 miles north of the state border with Florida. Valdosta is the county seat of Lowndes County and has a population of approximately 55,000.
-- The Web.com Tour will head approximately 240 miles to the north for next week’s event – the Stadion Classic at UGA. The tournament will be held at the University of Georgia golf course. Last year, former UGA All-American Hudson Swafford fired a course-record, 9-under 62 in the final round to earn his first career win. Swafford capped off his day by holing a bunker shot to finish at 17-under 267. He then had to wait 90 minutes for the remaining groups to finish. Luke List, winner of the South Georgia Classic the previous week, shared the lead but bogeyed the final hole to drop into a tie for second place.