PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — Brandt Snedeker turned bogey into birdie on his final hole Saturday morning, chipping in from 80 feet for a 3-under 68 that gave him a one-shot lead halfway through a wicked, windy PODS Championship.
Snedeker was the only player to break 70 each of the first two rounds, an astounding feat considering wind that gusted up to 40 mph on an Innisbrook course that is tough when it’s calm.
“I didn’t put myself in any trouble,” said Snedeker, who was at 5-under 137.
Jeff Maggert was at 8 under through nine holes when play was suspended Friday because of rain and storms, and while his game didn’t change much, the weather sure did. One gust was recorded at 44 mph, the strongest on the PGA Tour this year.
Maggert dropped four shots on the back nine for a 72, leaving him one shot out of the lead and quite satisfied.
“It was a grind,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a British Open-styled wind, where you hit it 160 yards with a 2-iron, then turn around and hit 180 yards with an 8-iron. But if you hit the ball well, you can manage to score.”
Seven players were at 3-under 139, and all but two of them finished yesterday. Stewart Cink had a share of the lead on the back nine until consecutive bogeys dropped him to a 73, while first-round leader Bart Bryant rallied late for a 74.
There were strange doings across the Copperhead course in the toughest conditions. The wind was so strong that volunteers were told not to carry the signs, lest both were blown away. Putts fell into the cup almost by accident, and anything in the 4-foot range was sheer guesswork whether the wind would hold it up or blow it in the hole, or neither.
The only constant was frustration.
Jeff Overton stood over an 18-inch putt on the eighth hole, backed off when leaves rushed over his ball, then jabbed at it and missed badly to the right. He rallied with a few birdies and was alone in the lead at 5 under until bogeys on the last four holes.
“The weather is better in Europe,” two-time U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen said.
That was before he teed off, and while he was in decent shape most of the day, it ended badly. He finished with three bogeys and a par to miss the cut by one shot.
James Driscoll two-putted from 40 feet for par on his final hole, and that was significant because 79 players made the cut at 3-over 145. The tour’s recently amended cut policy goes into effect for the first time, allowing for a second cut after the third round to the top 70 players and ties. That cut won’t happen until Sunday morning because it was unlikely everyone could finish Saturday.
Snedeker will be in the last group because of some great play, and a little luck at the end.
He hit six consecutive greens and was making up ground mostly with pars when he pulled his approach into the wind on the uphill ninth, the ball nestled among leaves to the left of the green, a deep bunker between him and the flag.
“Great feel on this,” his caddie instructed him.
The green slopes severely away from the edge, so Snedeker couldn’t expect to hit it terribly close. It came out perfectly, hopping softly onto the green and was gaining steam – a lot of it – when it crashed into the pin and disappeared.
Otherwise, Snedeker would have had 12 to 15 feet remaining for his par. Instead, he had a birdie and the 36-hole lead.
“You need a little luck,” Snedeker said. “I had a lot of putts that I thought were going in, but it was hard to get in the hole because of the wind. It’s hard to get the ball hugging to the ground, but you don’t want to hit it 3 or 4 feet by. You just hope it evens out in the end.”
And it did, leaving him atop the leaderboard in what figures to be a long, fickle weekend.
Only eight shots separated top to bottom, and the wind was not supposed to lay down until late in the afternoon, if at all.
“It’s a wide-open golf tournament,” Maggert said. “There’s a lot of guys, but it’s going to be difficult to come from behind.”
Indeed, this might be a tournament where picking up ground means not going anywhere at all.
Some players, however, wind up going home.
Honda Classic winner Ernie Els and Davis Love III were among those who knew they had missed the cut Friday after they finished.
Perhaps the most notable player to miss the cut Saturday morning was Scott Verplank. He had 28 rounds at par or better, the longest active streak on the PGA Tour. That ended in the wind and with two balls in the water, giving him a 79 and the weekend off.