Rocha Daniel Take Lead Into Weekend


Canadian Tour-LargeEDMONTON, AB -- Matt Daniel of Richmond, BC and Brazilian Alex Rocha share the lead after Fridays second round of the Canadian Tours $150,000 TELUS Edmonton Open.
The duo leads the pack at 11-under 133, one shot in front of Stuart Anderson (Ft. McMurray, AB), Scott Hend (Australia), Bobby Kalinowski (Scottsdale, AZ) and Aaron Barber (Minneapolis, MN). Brett Bingham of Red Deer, AB and Andy Johnson of Orlando, FL are at 9-under 135.
Barber, who won this event in 2001, fired a Glendale G&CC course record 9-under 63 Friday, erasing the benchmark set by Lee Trevino back in 1985.
A total of 60 players were 1-under 143 or better and will play on the weekend.
Rocha fired a 5-under 67 Friday and surrendered the outright lead when he bogeyed the 367-yard, par-4 final hole. During Thursdays opening round, Rocha hit driver off the tee right and caught a break when the ball hit a tree and took a favourable bounce. The 24-year-old went on to birdie the hole, but used discretion Friday. But Rocha launched his two-iron tee shot left into the trees, took a drop and salvaged the 5.
'I felt I robbed the course of a shot in the opening round, but the 2-iron today was a disgusting shot,' laughed Rocha, a former First Team All-American at the University of Mississippi. 'Other than that, Im quite happy. But was that shot ever horrible.'
Two weeks ago, as the Brazilian soccer team wrapped up the World Cup, Rocha received permission from Tour officials to wear the bright yellow jersey of his native land during the final round of the Greater Vancouver Classic. While a title here wouldnt shake Brazil to its foundation the way the soccer squad did two weeks ago, Rocha knows what a win would mean back home.
'You dont know how good it feels to see that Brazilian flag at the top of the leaderboard,' he remarked Friday, pointing to a television screen set up in the media room. 'You guys may not see the way the people are at home - of course, Brazil is huge on soccer, but they always support their athletes in any sport. Should I win here, you probably wont understand what it will mean to the people of my country. It is quite a heavy weight, but I love the feeling.'

Daniel, 26, played the past few seasons on the Canadian Tour but was unable to keep his card last season. He went back to Qualifying School this past fall and regained his playing status, but struggled for most of the season, making just one of seven cuts through the Lewis Chitengwa Memorial Championship. Recovering from a back injury, Daniel took two months off and returned for last weeks Victoria Open, winding up a season-high tie for 13th. This weekend, Daniel hopes to build on that result, although he admits he is heading into unfamiliar territory.
'I took the time off and came back more relaxed, not trying to force it so much,' said the 1993 B.C. Junior Champion. 'I felt I always had the shots in me, but I had to relax and just let the shots happen. I havent been in this position, but I am going to keep doing exactly the same thing. Well find out how I react in this situation. What else can you do?'
Less than one week after his first Canadian Tour win in Victoria, Hend appears poised to become the first player to win back-to-back events since New Zealander Steven Alker captured the McDonalds P.E.I. Challenge and Bayer Championship to close out the 2000 season. The triumphs paved the way to the Order of Merit crown for Alker. Hend, who has been married for just over a week now, appeared to have an ominous start Friday when his tee shot on the opening hole wound up in a tree.
'The first thing I thought after that shot was it was going to be one of those days,' admitted Hend. 'But then you have to remind yourself that things like that can happen. I played solid, put myself in contention for the weekend, and that is where I want to be on Sunday. If I can beat myself, that is what it is all about. Winning the battle with myself and the mind games that go along with it.'
Barber, the 2001 Order of Merit champion, was at 8-under with one hole to play Friday. A new course record seemed remote at best when the 29-year-old hit his tee shot into a sand bunker on the right side of the fairway. After hitting his second shot to the fringe, Barber canned the 45-foot birdie putt to establish the record and get to within one of the lead.
'I wasnt even sure what the record was, but I thought someone might take it real low this morning,' he admitted. 'I just wanted to get back on the leaderboard and into contention. Obviously, I like this city.maybe I should come back every couple of weeks to play.'
This weekend, Barber will go in search of his second straight Lewis Chitengwa Memorial Trophy, named in honour of the Tour rookie who passed away suddenly in Edmonton last summer. As emotional as Barber was that Sunday afternoon one year ago, Barber admitted the young Zimbabwe golfer will likely stir up the same type of feelings this weekend.
'Now that I am back into the hunt, Lewis is in my thoughts even more. It keeps things in perspective, and we realize that we are lucky to be playing golf. It shows what is important.'
NOTES: Hend is just one shot back and will head into the weekend trying to become the first golfer since 2000 to win back-to-back events. Steven Alker of New Zealand won the McDonalds PEI Challenge and Bayer Championship two years ago.Former NHL goaltender Grant Fuhr finished at 6-over 150 and missed the cut.
Full-field scores from the Telus Edmonton Open