Zhang, Smalley take second-round lead at Mackenzie Tour Qualifying Tournament
March 05, 2020
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- March 05, 2020
- Andy Zhang shot a second-round 69. (Ben Jared/Getty Images)
HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla. —Andy Zhang was skeptical about registering for this week’s Mackenzie Tour—PGA TOUR Canada Qualifying Tournament. The Beijing, China, native is set to have full status on PGA TOUR Series-China and was planning on playing in his home country in his effort to return to the Korn Ferry Tour.
But confidants encouraged him to sign up anyway. That might have been a wise decision, as Zhang shot a second-round 69 Wednesday to pull into a two-way tie with Alex Smalley at 4-under 140. David Sanders sits one stroke back at 3-under 141, while Trey Shirley and Harrison Rhoades are tied for fourth at 2-under 142.
PGA TOUR Series-China has postponed its first four tournaments of the regular season schedule in response to continue concern over the Novel Coronavirus COVID-19.
“My agent convinced me to play this week, and thankfully I did. This would mean another year of really good learning, applying what I learned last year to this year and just try to play better golf,” Zhang said. “Thankfully none of my relatives (in China) have been affected by the situation, but there are a lot of people that have been. I just send all my best thoughts to them.”
Starting on the back nine, Zhang opened his day with birdies at Nos. 10 and 17, the latter coming when his approach shot landed inside 2 feet. He added three more birdies on the front, including a near hole-out at the ninth hole, which helped offset bogeys at Nos. 3 and 8.
Zhang, a former University of Florida standout, spent the 2018-19 on the Korn Ferry Tour but lost his card after missing 13 cuts across 22 starts.
“It was very much a learning experience, and though it wasn’t the result I wanted I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said. “There’s so many things I didn’t really see when I was playing. I’m going to really commit to taking time off and work on my game (this season), versus trying to fix things on the fly playing 20 weeks in a row.”
Joining Zhang atop the leaderboard is Smalley, as the first-round co-leader continued his strong week with a 1-under 71. He tallied a trio of front-nine birdies before adding another at the par-5 14th, which was enough to stay in the lead despite a pair of three-putts and another bogey at No. 17 when he was unable to locate his ball in the fairway.
“I hit it right down the middle, but we got up there and didn’t see a ball,” he said. “There’s a bird nest kind of overhanging the fairway. We think the ball flew into the bird nest and stayed there because we never found it. It was on the same line as the two guys I was playing with, and both of their balls were in the fairway and we never found mine. One in a thousand, I guess.”
• This is the second of seven Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada qualifying tournaments before the season begins May 28 at the Canada Life Open. Blake Elliott won the first qualifying tournament at TPC San Antonio in February.
• Amateurs Thomas Forster and Kyle Flexsenhar are both tied for sixth entering the third round at 1-under 71.
• First-round co-leader Isaiah Salinda carded a 74 Wednesday to sit in a tie for sixth. Fellow co-leader Neal Ajubita shot 81 to fall into a tie for 52nd.
• The low Canadians are Chris Wilson and Matthew Shubley, who are tied for 27th at 3-over. Shubley shot a 69 on Wednesday after opening with a 78.
• Only 13 players will enter the weekend having shot even-par or better. Eleven players have shot 69 thus far, currently the low round of the tournament.
• After ending his first round with three consecutive bogeys, Harrison Rhoades birdied three of his first five holes en-route to a bogey-free 69 on Wednesday. He is tied for fourth entering the third round.
• Grant Schroeder carded an 11 at the par-5 10th hole but still managed to post a second-round 71 on the heels of eight birdies, including four consecutive on holes Nos. 13 through 16. He is 8-over overall for the week.
“I have a very strong support group. The people who help me, like my trainer, coach, and caddie, who has been with me a long time, they believe in me 120 percent. Obviously my coach, Sean Foley, has a ton of experience and he’s more of a mentor to me than a coach. We talked a little bit and he made me realize that everything I’ve been through was necessary for me to succeed.” – Andy Zhang
“I had never played so many tournaments in a row before or during such a short time span (until last year on the Korn Ferry Tour). In juniors and college, we don’t play that many tournaments at all. Last year I played about 25 weeks in about eight and a half months. That was very different to me. That took a while to adjust to.” – Andy Zhang
“There were some tough pins. They put a couple of them on a lot of slope and they were really tough to get to. I had two three-putts, which didn’t make me very happy. On No. 15, the par 3, hit it just a little too hard and I lipped out a 4-footer coming back. I don’t know if I made a putt outside 5 feet today. To end up under par any day on this course is pretty good.” – Alex Smalley
“I think you just have to be smart tomorrow. I saw the winds are supposed to be blowing 20 to 30 mph and we might have some storms in the afternoon that we might be dodging. You just have to go out and be smart tomorrow and pick and choose where you can miss it, where you can be aggressive and where you can’t. Par is going to be a pretty good score tomorrow, I would think.” – Alex Smalley
“I just think the competition is so good that putting yourself up against those players week-to-week, it really prepares you as well. The traveling and four-day tournaments, there’s not many other tours out there like that.” – Harrison Rhoades
“You really just can’t go to sleep out here. I had a good start and then just played really solid. I could have rolled in a few more putts later in the round, but I hit it pretty good. I made some putts early that evened it all out.” – Harrison Rhoades
“I started finding the middle of the club face. I made a couple doubles out there yesterday and today just kept it rolling. I made a lot of good putts. I played the last qualifying tournament here and figured I would just play here again.” – Matthew Shubley
Second-Round Weather: Sunny. High of 31. Winds SW at 17 KPH.
How the Tournament Works
There are 123 players competing this week with hopes of earning Mackenzie Tour membership for the 2020 season. Below is a breakdown of the various statuses available this week.
Exempt for the 2020 season
2nd through 14th (no ties)
Fully exempt for the first six 2020 tournaments and subject to the re-shuffle
15th through 40th (plus ties)
Conditionally exempt for the 2020 season