Franken takes 36-hole lead at Orange County National Championship presented by Knight 39
October 09, 2020
By Preston Smith, PGATOUR.COM
- October 09, 2020
- Franked fired a second straight 64 to take the lead on Friday. (Mackenzie Perez/PGATOUR.COM)
WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – A day after posting his lowest round to date on Tour (64), rookie Stephen Franken matched his feat with a second-round 7-under 64 to reach 14-under for the tournament. Franken leads Shad Tuten by one stroke as the second round was suspended due to darkness with two groups on the course at the Orange County National Championship presented by Knight 39.
“This course is pretty wide open and I hit it pretty far so I’m just trying to hit bombs honestly,” said Franken, a top-15 player on Tour in driving distance. “Just doing that any opportunity I get. It’s fun.”
The Raleigh, North Carolina, native eagled the second hole to jumpstart his round, tacking on birdies at the fourth, sixth and seventh holes to turn at 5-under 30. He collected two more birdies on the back nine to reach 7-under for the day.
Franken rewrote the record book at North Carolina State University before turning pro in 2019. He competed on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada that summer and earned status on the Korn Ferry Tour through a strong performance at the Qualifying Tournament last December, also held at Orange County National. Franken finished T7 to earn guaranteed starts in 2020, including rounds of 67-68 on the Panther Lake course (host of this week’s tournament).
“It was huge; I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was for me just to finish top-10 versus top-40,” reflected Franken of his performance in December. “To secure those extra starts and to have that extra security out here. It definitely helped a lot.”
Entering the week, the 23-year-old sat 122nd in the Korn Ferry Tour points standings and had yet to record a top-10 finish. Recently, he has missed six of his last seven cuts to drop from 86th to 122nd.
“I talked to my coach and had less pressure honestly,” said Franken. “I didn’t touch a club for three days after I missed the cut last week. I played 18 on Tuesday and was here for an hour and a half or two hours on Wednesday. I actually switched golf balls to give myself more spin and it was really, really helpful.”
Entering his final hole, the par-5 18th, Franken was the last remaining player in the field without a bogey. He pulled his drive into the native area and tried to hit out but was only able to advance the ball 25 yards. After chipping out into the fairway, he was able to get up and down from 95 yards to save par.
“It was a great putt there [on 18],” said Franken. “I haven’t been putting great over the last two weeks so to see that one drop was awesome. It was not an easy putt and it just rolled in. It was awesome and gave me confidence for the weekend.”
Franken leads Augusta, Georgia, native Shad Tuten by one stroke at the halfway point. Tuten followed up a first-round 63 with a 5-under 66. Eight players sit two strokes back of the lead at 12-under.
The second round will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and third-round tee times will go off later that morning.