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    • Ortiz, Curl lead at rain-delayed South Georgia Classic

    • Jeff Curl shares the early lead with Carlos Ortiz in Georgia. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)Jeff Curl shares the early lead with Carlos Ortiz in Georgia. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)

    VALDOSTA, Ga. – Even Mother Nature can’t cool off the hottest players on the Web.com Tour, though she should be given high marks for persistence and creativity. Last week it was wind, this week it’s rain at the South Georgia Classic presented by First State Bank and Trust Co.

    Undaunted by almost everything this season, leading money winner Carlos Ortiz strolled through a bogey-free, 5-under 67 that put him at the top of the standings along with Birmingham’s Jeff Curl. Last week’s champion, Andrew Putnam of Washington shot a 4-under 68 and currently shares third place with Auburn grad Blayne Barber. Six players are tied for fourth with 3-under 69’s, including a pair of former U.S. Amateur champions from Southern Methodist University – Kelly Kraft and Colt Knost.

    Heavy thunderstorms rolled through the Valdosta area and soaked the opening round with nearly a half inch of rain. Players had to be pulled off the Kinderlou Forest Golf Club course twice before noon and play was suspended for a total of five hours.

    Half the field did not complete the first round and will resume play at 7:45 Friday morning.

    “I can’t remember the last time I’ve started and stopped twice in a round,” said Putnam, who blew away the field by seven shots in Texas at last week’s WNB Golf Classic, which was shortened to 54 holes when 40-50 mph winds canceled the final round. “We knew it was going to be like this today and we prepared for it and expected it. I tried not to hit too many balls on the range because if I would have the full warm up every time I would have hit 500 balls and just been worn out.”

    Putnam has been playing well to begin the year but his win in Midland has put him in a more relaxed state.

    “You’re just hanging with your friends in the clubhouse so it’s not too bad,” he said of the stop-and-go day. “I just tried to take it easy and be laid back about it. I don’t feel any pressure any more. Just free-riding and let it go.”

    Meantime, Ortiz, a two-time winner in seven starts this season, also found a nice way to relax in between the raindrops. The 23-year old is staying near the 18th hole in private housing this week and when the second horn sounded at 11:35 a.m. he headed back to the house.

    “I went straight to my car,” he said. “I caught up with my TV series “The Following” and laid down for a little bit. When I saw it was getting nice outside I came back, ate a little bit and starting hitting balls again.”

    Ortiz put together another solid effort by hitting 12 of 14 fairways and needed only 25 putts. The former University of North Texas standout leads the Tour in the All-Around rankings and Scoring Average in addition to being first on the money list.

    “I’m not trying to think about anything. I’m having fun with my caddie,” he said. “I’m not thinking about the money or the money list or what happens with one more win. I’m just trying to focus on the present and enjoy it.”

    First-Round Notes:

    • Thursday weather: Off-and-on thunderstorms. First-round play began at 7:15 a.m. and was suspended at 7:58 a.m. Play resumed at 10:00 a.m. and was suspended again at 11:35 a.m. Play resumed again at 2:35 p.m. and was called because of darkness at 7:56 p.m. Rainfall total 0.45”. Winds NW 5-10 mph. Daytime high of 72.

    • Friday’s forecast calls for a high chance for rain (80%) and a minimal chance for lightning (20%). The heaviest rainfall period is expected between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

    • Lift, clean and place conditions are in effect for the first round.

    • Round one will resume with players ‘in position’ at 7:45 a.m.

    • The second round is slated to begin at 11:15 a.m. Tee times are scheduled from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m.

    • Tyler Weworski withdrew prior to the start of the round and was replaced in the field by Skip Kendall, who teed off at 7:25 p.m.

    • Players who posted bogey-free rounds this week:
    R1 – 67 – Carlos Ortiz; 68 – Andrew Putnam; 69 – Miguel Angel Carballo; 70 – Ryuji Imada, John Kimbell

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