Hnatiuk Maintains FedEx Lead
Matt Kuchar and Justin Leonard each posted rounds of 5-under 66 Friday to share fifth place at 10-under par. Tim Petrovic, tied for the lead with Hnatiuk after the first round, was alone in sixth at minus 9.
John Riegger (68), Robert Gamez (64), Jason Hill (66) and Doug Barron (67) were in eighth place at 8-under-par.
Joel Edwards set the nine-hole record for this tournament with a 28 on the front side at the TPC at Southwind. He shot a 63 to be part of a group at 6-under-par with Tom Byrum, who also fired a 63, and John Daly (70).
Hnatiuk only tallied two birdies on the front side, a pair of 10-footers at two and six. He made his ascent up the leaderboard on the back nine and then pulled away from the crowd near the top.
At the 10th, Hnatiuk landed an 8-iron four feet from the hole to set up a birdie. Three holes later he ran home a 15-footer for birdie to reach 10-under par. The Canadian two-putted from 25 feet on the par-5 16th to join the group at 11-under but he saved his best for the last hole.
Hnatiuk played a 9-iron to the safe part of the green but drained a 30-foot putt to grab the 36-hole lead for the first time in his PGA Tour career.
'I just kind of hung it out to the right. I didn't want to get too greedy with that shot,' said Hnatiuk, referring to his approach at 18. 'I wasn't real happy with the shot but I was happy with the result.'
Hnatiuk, whose best finish this season was a tie for eighth at Harbour Town, understood the magnitude of his position but wants it to be business as usual when he hits the first tee Saturday afternoon.
'It was Friday; it was the second round. That's it,' said Hnatiuk. 'I'm going to try and approach Saturday and Sunday the same way. I've had troubles in the past where I kind of get in my own way and I get way ahead of myself thinking of consequences and what might happen. So Saturday is going to be just Saturday.'
Bates, who played on the Buy.Com Tour last season, was three-under when he reached the par-4 12th on Friday. After a big drive left him with only 100 yards to the flag, he hit a wedge approach that found its way into the hole for an eagle-2.
'I hit a little three-quarter pitching wedge right behind the hole and it sunk in the hole,' said Bates, whose father-in-law, Doug Tewell, is competing in the U.S. Senior Open this week. 'I made eagle there and that kind of got me going.'
Bates added three birdies the rest of the way to polish off an 8-under 63.
Haas, winless since the 1993 Texas Open, was flawless Friday with seven birdies and no bogeys for a 64.
Begay's story is perhaps the most interesting of the leaders as he struggles to return to the form that netted him the St. Jude and Greater Hartford Open titles in back-to-back weeks in 2000.
Begay severely injured his back during offseason conditioning prior to the 2001 campaign and was able to play in only 12 events that year. He missed the first 11 cuts this season before tying for 33rd in Hartford last week.
'I never stopped treating myself like a champion. Now I'm playing like one, so I guess that's a good thing,' said Begay, who shot a second-round 65.
Bob Estes, the 2001 champion, shot his second 69 in as many days and finished tied for 41st at minus 4.
The 36-hole cut fell at 2-under-par 140. Among the notable players whofa Curtis Strange, and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Full-field scores from the FedEx St. Jude Classic
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.