Cold, windy weather testing toughness at Tour finale

Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
October 26, 2012
Bill Nichols, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

MCKINNEY, Texas - The Tour Championship is all about opportunities.


But this week at TPC Craig Ranch, grasping what's available has been complicated by howling winds and chilly temperatures.

If this keeps up, Sunday's champion might want to think twice about kissing the trophy.

Justin Hicks emerged from the windswept fairways on Friday with the second-round lead. His 2-under 69 put him at 8-under 134, two strokes clear of Brad Fritsch and Justin Bolli.

"I have to go back to my days in Michigan,'' Hicks said. "At most of the places we play, it's usually all about staying hydrated, drinking enough water to avoid passing out.''

Midway through the season-ending event, the 60-player field is huddled together as if trying to stay warm.

Russell Henley, James Hahn, Scott Gardiner and Michael Putnam are three shots back at 5-under, one stroke ahead of a group of six. The top 22 players behind Hicks are separated by only four strokes.

With trees and flagsticks swaying in 30 mph north winds it seemed to make sense that two of the contenders hail from Canada, where kids grow up swinging sticks on frozen ponds.

Fritsch was born in Edmonton, Alberta. Adam Hadwin, tied for eighth, is a native of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

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"It's not like we always played in the cold,'' Fritsch said. "But playing on the Canadian Tour, you do learn to deal with some tough conditions.''

Hadwin discounted the theory primarily because he only lived in Moose Jaw for about one year. He lives in British Columbia, which is like Seattle with hockey fans.

"I grew up on the west coast, so I've played a lot in the wind,'' Hadwin said. "I feel like the tougher the conditions, the better it is for me - just keep grinding, keep hitting good shots. You just have to slow things down and be patient. You know everybody's going to have issues.''

Patience was virtuous with a two-club wind and a two-layer outfit. A couple of players wore two golf gloves. Others slipped mittens on their hands between shots.

The 7,438-yard layout has fairy generous landing areas, but approach shots were difficult. Figuring out yardages and selecting clubs was a guessing game. The pace was slow.

"We've done our best to stay patient,'' said Hicks, who three birdies and two bogeys on the front and eight pars and one birdie -- on the par-5 18th -- coming home. "It was really the cold and dealing with all the layers of clothes. We figured the wind was about 20 yards.''

In the first round, 40 of the 60 players shot under par. The second round surrendered only 16 sub-par rounds. Only 13 shot over par on Thursday compared to 37 on Friday.

Round 2 recap

Justin Hicks broke away from the pack and has the solo lead at 8-under par.

The average score on the par-71 track was 71.967, up from 69.650 the first round.

"I didn't hit it as close,'' Fritsch said. "But I didn't shoot myself out of it. I made a bomb on 15 after one of those skulled 4-irons.''

Saturday's forecast calls for a morning frost with a low of 38 degrees and a high of 60. Winds are expected to continue blowing from the north at 10-20 mph.

"This game is all about misses,'' Hahn said. "When you have 30 mph winds, you're thinking where is the best place for me to miss and still make par. You have to be creative, hit low shots and have good distance control. It narrows your focus.''

"I was two over after the first two holes and worried about not breaking 80,'' said Hahn, who shot 4-under 67 to tie for low round of the day. "It was at least a two-club wind, sometimes three. It really tests your mental toughness.''