Hot start lifts Smith to lead in Chile
March 07, 2014
- Byron Smith birdied six of his first 10 holes Friday en route to the 36-hole lead. (Cohen/Getty Images)
SANTIAGO, Chile – Byron Smith battled through a bit of nerves, a little fatigue, a couple mistakes and the tricky winds around the Prince of Wales Country Club course and emerged as the second-round leader of the Chile Classic.
Smith chalked up six birdies in his first 10 holes and then played even-par on the way to the clubhouse for a round of 66 and a two-day total of 13-under 131, one shot better than 21-year old Argentine Jorge Fernandez-Valdes, who matched the leader’s 6-under-par score.
First-day co-leader Sebastian Vazquez of Mexico carded a 2-under 70 and stands alone in third place at 10-under par.
Bhavik Patel (68), Garth Mulroy (71) and Roger Sloan (69) share fourth place, four back of Smith.
Smith was cruising along nicely on a warm, sunny day before things got shaky on the back nine.
“I was leaking oil coming in today,” said Smith, who had two birdies, two bogeys and a couple of nifty par saves over his final eight holes. “I was just trying to stay relaxed but it’s been a long off season for me and it may take a while for me to get the feel and the flow back.”
Smith didn’t roll in any birdie putts of “real substance” while finding nothing but greens and fairways for most of the day. A well-struck 6-iron on the par-3, 15th failed to clear and bunker and he missed his short putt for par. On the next hole he yanked a pitching wedge into a greenside bunker and missed another five-footer for par, dropping him back to minus-12.
“I hadn’t missed too many greens and then suddenly I missed two in a row and I was worried about just getting it to the house,” he said. “The wind was a lot trickier today. You don’t know where it’s coming from. I know there’s a predominant wind direction but it just swirls in these trees and there are a lot of trees out here.”
Smith found them on No. 17 when he pulled a 3-iron off the tee. He squeezed a 5-iron through a narrow window but watched his ball race over the green and into a bush, setting him up for a third consecutive bogey.
“I had no business hitting that second shot,” he admitted. “I was running on empty right there. I had just missed two makeable putts. I was able to get my third shot on the green. It turned into an all-world par when I made a 14-foot, downhill slider.”
That putt stopped the backwards run and Smith got up and down for birdie on the par-5, 18th to put him at lucky-13.
His closest challenger is Fernandez-Valdez, who had a win and six other top-10 finishes en route to fourth place standing on the 2013 Latinoamerica Tour’s Order of Merit.
“I really feel comfortable on the greens,” said Fernandez-Valdez, who now calls Miami home. “We changed my set up and changed the address and everything is working well.”
Fernandez-Valdez was nearly perfect on the day but admitted luck entered the equation as well.
After a slight-draw, 5-iron stopped 10 feet from the cup for eagle at the par-5, 14th (he made the putt), he surprised himself with a hole out from a greenside bunker on the 191-yard, 16th, the third-toughest hole on the course.
“I was just hoping to get it within the six to nine foot range,” he said. “I thought I might be able to make par. Somehow it went in.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
• Friday weather: Mostly sunny all day. Winds were calm in the morning and then S 5-10 through 4pm and then S 10-20 mph. High of 91.
• The course record at the Prince of Wales Country Club is 11-under 61, set by 2013 tournament champion Kevin Kisner in the third round a year ago.
• The winning scores in the first two years of this event were 22-under by Paul Haley II in 2012 and 21-under by Kevin Kisner in 2013.
• A total of 74 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 2-under par 142.
• Here’s the cut information for the tournament’s first three years:
Year Leader Cut # Players
2014 -13 -2 74
2013 -14 -4 68
2013 -13 -3 74
• Third-round play will be in twosomes off the first tee. Times will run from 9:30 am to 3:10 pm.
• Blayne Barber’s bogey-free 64 turned into a 66 when he was assessed a two-stroke penalty following his morning round. Barber incurred the penalty for a mistake he made on the 16th green.
Barber was facing a 3-foot putt for birdie. After marking his ball and then replacing it, Barber removed his coin and took a couple of practice putts. Before hitting the putt he noticed that his ball had moved slightly.
“(playing partner) Chris Wilson and I talked about it and I thought I should call an official but we came to a conclusion,” he said. “I didn’t want to hold people up and in hindsight I should have called somebody.”
Barber ended up replacing the ball and making the putt for his eighth birdie of the day.
“You’re supposed to play from where it moved to if you don’t cause it to move,” said Barber, who was in violation of Rule 20-7 and played the ball from the wrong place. “I think the lesson is to do due diligence and call and official, regardless of how silly it might seem. Hopefully I can play well this weekend in spite of it and it won’t matter.”
Barber is 8-under through 36 holes and T7.
• Leader Byron Smith has played the front nine in 5-under par each of the first two days. He has 10 birdies on seven different holes. Smith has made par on Nos. 2 and 8 both days.
• Ohio State’s Ryan Armour turned things around on Friday, posting a 5-under 67, a 12-shot improvement from his opening 79. Still it was not enough to get him past the cut line and into the weekend.
• Roger Sloan’s birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie start on the first four holes matched the best birdie-eagle streak in the tournament’s three-year history. Troy Merritt put a similar streak together on holes 7-10 in the third round last year. Sloan had only two official putts on the four holes. He holed a 40-footer from off the green on No. 1, a 15-footer on No. 2, holed a bunker shot for eagle on No. 3 and then canned a 15-footer on No. 4. Unofficially, he had 22 putts on the day.
• Forgive Steve Wheatcroft (69-71-140) if he isn’t a fan of the three-hole stretch that includes Nos. 12, 13 and 14. The Jacksonville, FL, resident has struggled both days on those holes – playing them in a combined 6-over par while torching the other 15 holes in 10-under par. Wheatcroft went bogey-par-double bogey in Thursday’s opener and double bogey-bogey-par in round two.
• Scott Harrington posted the day’s best round – an 8-under 64 – and vaulted up from a T91 after Thursday’s opening 73 to T14 where he stands heading into the weekend.
• Players who have posted bogey-free rounds:
R1 -- 64 – Garth Mulroy; 65 – Byron Smith; 67 – Andrew Putnam, Bhavik Patel, Brett Lederer, Jonathan Fricke; 68 – Guy Boros; 70 – Richard S. Johnson
R2 – 64 – Scott Harrington; 65 – Sebastian Pinzon; 66 – Tom Gillis; 67 – Daniel Berger, Nathan Tyler, Ryan Blaum, Kevin Kim; 68 – Andres Gonzales, Jeff Curl, Troy Kelly; 69 – Martin Ureta
• There are nine players from Chile in this week’s field:
- Felipe Aguilar 71-73—144 E M/C
- Benjamin Alvarado 71-73—144 E M/C
- Juan Cerda 69-76—145 +1 M/C
- Christian Espinoza 72-70—142 -2 T59
- Nicholas Geyger 67-74—141 -3 T48
- Hugo Leon 70-70—140 -4 T38
- Santiago Russi 70-75—145 +1 M/C
- Mark Tullo 73-72—145 +1 M/C
- Martin Ureta 70-69—139 -5 T27
• DID YOU KNOW ABOUT CHILE….
-- There are more than 52,000 miles of coastline, which would be equal to at two full trips around the earth at the equator.
-- There are more than 5,900 islands up and down the western coast along the Pacific Ocean.