Three Share Lead As Darkness Suspends Play

By Marty HenwoodMarch 10, 2006, 5:00 pm
Canadian Tour-LargeAUSTIN, Texas -- Mother Nature has held the upper hand through the first two days of the Canadian Tours Yes! Golf Barton Creek Challenge presented by BG Products.

With strong winds adding another element to an already-daunting Fazio Foothills track at Barton Creek Resort & Spa, Mike Mezei of Lethbridge, Alta., overnight leader Will Yanagisawa and Tom Kalinowski share the clubhouse lead at 4-under 140. Mezei posted a 2-under 70 Friday to join Yanagisawa on the top perch. Kalinowski, playing on a sponsors exemption, came in with a 71 just before dusk settled over Barton Creek.

Play was suspended by darkness for the second consecutive day at 6:45 pm CST with five players still on the course. The second round will be completed Saturday morning before the field is reduced to the low 60 players plus ties. As of Friday night, the cutline stood at plus-4.

Defending champion Omar Uresti of Austin and former U.S. amateur standout Joe Lanza, playing just his second Tour event, are one shot off the lead.

Rob McMillan of Winnipeg and Americans Ben Hayes, Lee Williamson, Brian Unk and Andy Matthews are at minus-2.

Two weeks after a win at the Nationwide Tours ING New Zealand Championship and a week removed from a runner-up showing at the Barton Creek Classic, Victorias Jim Rutledge continues to hold a hot hand. Rutledge is just three shots off the pace.

Only 20 players are in red numbers at the halfway mark.

Mezeis opening round of 16 pars and two birdies was much more routine than the math quiz that lined his scorecard Friday. When the dust had settled, Mezei had scrambled through a round that featured five birdies, five bogeys and an eagle, courtesy of a hole-out from 104 yards on the par-4 eleventh.

That was just a weird day, laughed Mezei, a second-year player who also holds status on the European Challenge Tour for this season. It was one of those days where you could play the exact same way and it could either be a 65 or a 75. This course is a tough enough test. When that wind gets going, anything can happen.

Uresti finds himself in contention in his hometown for the second straight week. Last Sunday, the former University of Texas star was part of a four-man-playoff at the Barton Creek Classic which was eventually won by Rob Oppenheim.

The PGA Tour regular also won this event playing on a sponsors exemption one year ago and has put himself in a prime spot to defend the title with two rounds to go.

On Friday, Uresti matched the low number of the day, a 4-under 68, thanks to four birdies in a five hole stretch on his opening nine. Turning at 4-under, Uresti knocked in nine straight par putts on the back nine to once again put himself in contention.

Not only is Uresti playing some solid golf in his hometown, he has also been the gracious host this week. The PGA and Nationwide Tour member has opened his doors to McMillan in Austin.

Uresti met his wife, Anita, an Ontario native, at the Bell Canadian Open nearly a decade ago. The couple owns a home in Mississauga and spends most of the summer in Canada.

I think its a lot more relaxing for me here, said Uresti when asked of his recent performances at Barton Creek. I get to sleep in my own bed and be at home during the week. It makes a lot of difference.

Less than a day after posting an opening-round 70, three-time Canadian Tour champion McMillan kept the train on the rails apart from bookend bogeys on his first and final holes.

If you are under par for these two days, you are playing pretty well, said McMillan. The wind has made it more challenging, and some of the pins are hard to get at. This is a difficult golf course to begin with. Its tough to get the ball in close.

McMillan wasnt striking the ball as well as he had hoped early Friday but made a handful of clutch par saves to keep the leaders in sight.

I wasnt hitting it very well early on, but I made a couple of saves that helped me out. There was a point where I may have been able to take advantage of the course, but at the end of the day I cant complain.

Mezei, a former amateur star and a member of Canadas Four Nations Cup team in 2003, isnt putting any pressure on himself heading into the weekend.

Im just going to go out there and try to keep doing the things Ive been doing, said the 24-year-old. I cant really control what the score will be. This is what we practice for'to give yourself a chance on the weekend. Anytime youre that close, thats what its all about.

Oppenheim will need some help early Saturday morning if he is to get a chance to make it two straight in Texas. The Andover, Mass. native is at 5-over, one shot outside the current number needed to play on the weekend.
 
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