Wittenberg Surges NHL Player Struggles

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Canadian Tour-LargeEUSTIS, Fla. -- Even after a seven-year hiatus from the world of professional golf, Glenn Collins is proving he can still swing the sticks.

The 37-year-old Winnipeg native carded a 4-under 68 Wednesday to take over the top spot at the halfway pole of the Canadian Tours Winter Qualifying School. After two trips around the 7,000-yard Black Bear GC, Collins has a 6-under 138 total, one stroke in front of Edmontons Danny Sahl, Scott McNeil of Calgary and Americans Chris Cureton and Casey Wittenberg.

Marc Savard of the Atlanta Thrashers, an Ottawa native looking to play his way onto the Canadian Tour after the National Hockey League cancelled its 2005 campaign last week, struggled to a 7-over 79 and is in 46th spot at 13-over.

Once final round action has wrapped up Friday, the Canadian Tour will award seven exempt playing cards for the 2005 season, with the same number of participants earning non-exempt status. The cutline to secure a card after two rounds is 1-under.

The 37-year-old Collins, who won the Manitoba PGA Championship in 1995, was consistent for the second straight day, coming on the heels of an opening-round 70 that left him one shot off the lead. Collins had a strong finish Wednesday, hitting a knockdown 9-iron from 131 yards to within two feet on the final hole for a tap-in birdie.

It was a good day, nothing spectacular but I didnt make many mistakes, said Collins, one of only ten Canadians in the starting field. Ive put myself in great position and Ill just stick to what Ive been doing. Golf can be a crazy game, so you need to stay with your game plan.

After taking seven years off from the sport as he nursed a nagging arm injury that required surgery in 1996, Collins returned to the links a year and a half ago, hoping to revive a once-promising career.

On Wednesday, Collins proved he made the right decision. Playing with American amateur phenom Casey Wittenberg, Collins held his own and is in prime position with just two days left.

Wittenberg fired a second-round 66, the low round of the day, and caught the attention of Collins.

That kid is a great player, Collins added. He made that 66 look so easy out there. Hes got some game.

Less than 24 hours after a double-bogey, bogey finish that left him with a 1-over 73, Wittenberg found his groove early Wednesday with birdies on four of his first five holes. The 20-year-old made the turn at 4-under and cruised home on the inward nine, moving up fourteen spots on the leaderboard into a tie for second.

I was pretty hot under the collar after my finish yesterday, but I gave myself a lot more opportunities today, admitted Wittenberg. It was tough (Tuesday) but at the end of the day, you have to come back out and play good golf.

Wittenberg is coming off a season to remember, highlighted by a 13th-place showing at The Masters, the best finish by an amateur in 41 years at Augusta. The former NCAA All-American at Oklahoma State University joins Tiger Woods as the only two players in history to be ranked the top amateur in the United States before starting college.

If being placed under the proverbial microscope is causing cracks in Wittenbergs armor, the 2003 U.S. amateur runner-up hides it well.

You know, if Ive learned anything, its that you cant put any more pressure on yourself. This game is hard enough, there is no need to make it any tougher. It can beat you up pretty quickly if you let it. I know what I can do and I know where I want to be. Im 20 years old. Its a learning process.

Savard, a member at the TPC at Sugarloaf who routinely plays practice rounds with PGA Tour star Stewart Cink, has had his fair share of problems on the greens thus far. Two double-bogeys Wednesday means Savard will have plenty of work to do if he wants to turn his week around, but the fourth-round draft pick of the New York Rangers in 1995 feels he can still take it low over the final two days.

Ive been hitting my driver and my irons great, I just cant make any putts, said Savard. The short stick and my chipping have been horrible, and they are usually my best attributes. Ive lost all feeling with the putter. I know I have a 68 in meI just have to get it done.
 
Second round scores from the 7,000-yard, par-72 Black Bear GC (A-denotes amateur):
 
Glenn Collins 70-68_138
Chris Cureton 72-67_139
Scott McNeil 71-68_139
Danny Sahl 69-70_139
Casey Wittenberg 73-66_139
John Humphries 70-70_140
Eddie Heinen 70-71_141
Jesse Smith 74-67_141
Billy Zihala 70-71_141
Jim Seki 74-68_142
Jesse Hibler 75-68_143
Jan Meierling 72-71_143
Brock Mulder 72-71_143
Justin Snelling 71-72_143
Chad Lydiatt 73-71_144
Brien Davis 72-73_145
Gavin Ferlic 73-72_145
Joe Horowitz 70-75_145
Ryan Kings 72-73_145
Mac McLeod 73-72_145
Yuji Makino 76-70_146
McNally. Michael 70-77_147
Matt Deschaine 74-74_148
Michael Hospodar 76-72_148
Lynn Kilduff 75-73_148
Brett Peterson 79-69_148
Greg Martin 72-77_149
JJ Williams 75-75_150
Billy Dickenson 74-77_151
Robert Kennedy 78-73_151
Pedro Park 74-77_151
Adrian Parker 77-74_151
Bret Guetz 81-71_152
Kelly Berger 78-75_153
Dan Cook 79-74_153
Juan Pablo Ibarreche 78-75_153
Scott Noble 77-76_153
Ron Hoenig 78-76_154
Evan Johnstone 78-76_154
Justin Sherriff 75-79_154
Michael Brown 81-74_155
Jerry Heinz 81-74_155
Ian Hogg 76-79_155
Rob Sitterley 78-78_156
Scott Yopchick 79-77_156
Michael Petrie 78-79_157
(A) Marc Savard 78-79_157
Shane Tripp 84-74_158
(A) Matt Yarvi 85-74_159
Jeffery Ryan 76-84_160
Jordan Totten 94-82_176