Smith Adopts New Outlook
Smith is as middle of the road as they come. Hes married, like movies and sports, was even born in Iowa.
Yet, one look at the electronic Disney leaderboard early Friday and you find that name ' in bright lights, at the top.
Smith shot his second straight 6-under-par 66 to move to 12-under and into the lead midway through the second round of the National Car Rental Classic at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
The last two days I have really had good control of my golf game out there, Smith said.
The conditions this morning were ideal. I got off to a great start. I birdied three of the first four holes. That helped settle me in for the day.
Smith was in the first group out Friday morning, teeing off on the Magnolia Course at 7:30 a.m. ET. He started the round one off the overnight lead; held by Shaun Micheel, Stewart Cink, Len Mattiace, Steve Lowery and Scott McCarron.
Micheel and Mattiace were the only players among the 18-hole leaders to play in the morning, both shot 70 and are three back of Smith at 9-under.
Tiger Woods is among those teeing off in the afternoon. Woods, the 1996 and 99 Disney champion, opened in 3-under 69.
With three events remaining on the PGA Tour schedule, Smith resides in 120th place on the money list. The top 125 at seasons end earn full exempt status in 2002.
Yet, Smith doesnt carry the demeanor of a man struggling to maintain his professional existence. And that can be attributed to an event that took place on May 20.
Five months ago, Smith and his wife, Jennifer, adopted a baby girl. They named her Olivia.
It has been a great experience, Smith said, fighting back tears. She has been a great baby.'
After years of trying to conceive a child, the Smiths decided to try adoption. They were helped along the way by Kirk and Cathi Triplett, who also with through the process.
They are the ones that really helped us get in with this agency (in California) and establish a good relationship, the 37-year-old Smith said. It happened very quickly. It just really happened, I guess, for the right reasons.
Olivia and Jennifer occasionally travel with Jerry. He finds it difficult to leave them; though, this week they are at home in Scottsdale, Ariz.
(Olivia) is just beginning to start to know whats going on around her, but shes still a little too young for Mickey, the proud papa said with a smile.
Smith is in his second season on the PGA Tour. He made 20 of 32 cuts a year ago to finish 118th in earnings. Most of his money was concentrated in a ninth-place finish at the Byron Nelson Classic - his best career finish on Tour until a tie for eighth at this year's Air Canada Championship.
Last year I sort of was inside that (top-125) bubble most of the year, he said. This year it has been totally opposite. I started off very slow.'
Smith has missed 14 cuts in 29 starts this season, including two in a row leading up to the NCR Classic. Still, theres no hint of desperation in his voice. No amount of frustration in his face.
There is no doubt I think I was sort of on edge early in the year, sort of short with people, and maybe short with myself, and impatient with myself out on the golf course, Smith said.
I have really tried to just say, hey, I dont care what happens, and I tried saying this several months ago. Its played out very well for me.
That approach ' simple as it is ' is working quite well thus far this week.
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Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.