Skip to main content

Twenty-One May be the Winning Number

  LAS VEGAS -- Garrett Willis arrived at the course behind schedule, cut short his time at the driving range and managed an abbreviated warmup workout in the fitness trailer before beginning play.
It didn't seem to matter much -- well, aside from that bogey on his second hole.
Willis shot a 10-under 62 on the TPC Summerlin course Friday for a share of the second-round lead in the Open.
D.J. Trahan and rookie George McNeill matched Willis at 13-under 130. McNeill shot a 7-under 64 on the par-71 TPC The Canyons course and Trahan had a 64 on the same course in an event missing all of the world's top-20 players.
After playing the Canyons course Thursday, Willis went 7 under on his back nine in the second round to finish one stroke off the course record of 61 set by Davis Love III in 2001.
Not a bad showing in Sin City considering he had a late night at The Palms Hotel and Casino and then a 7:10 a.m. tee time after fighting his way through the morning commute traffic. Fellow player Jesper Parnevik even offered Willis a ride, noticing he'd been waiting a while outside the lobby.
Jason Gore and John Huston were tied for fourth at 12 under. Gore followed his 63 on The Canyons course Thursday with a 4-under 68 on Summerlin on a hazy, mostly cloudy day in the desert for the early groups before a sunny and breezy afternoon. Huston shot a 6-under 65 at The Canyons.
Gore had a bogey and only one birdie on the front nine, but made four birdies over his final nine holes.
'I think I was pressing a little bit too much on the front nine and just said, 'Heck with it,'' Gore said. 'After the way I played on the front nine, I'm glad to finish up with 4 under. It looked like I could have shot 5 over at one point.'
John Daly bounced back from a first-round 74 with a 9-under 63 on Summerlin -- shooting an 8-under 28 on the back nine -- to put him at 6 under for the tournament. He was 4 over for the tournament with 11 holes to play, but birdied Nos. 7 and 9 to reach the turn at 1-under 35. He then birdied 10 and 11, eagled 13 and birdied Nos. 14 through 17.
'Nothing's been going right in two years, and to do that, it's just a great feeling to get a decent round in for a change,' Daly said. 'It was a shock to me.'
Scott Verplank, the highest ranked player in the field at No. 24, and Charles Howell III missed the cut after being expected to contend. They were both at 3 under.
Willis made eagle on the third hole -- his 12th -- then birdied Nos. 4, 6, 7 and 9 on his sizzling back nine to shoot his second best round of his career, in just his 11th PGA TOUR event of 2007. He followed his bogey on No. 2 with a birdie, then also had three straight birdies on 14, 15 and 16.
Paired with Duffy Waldorf, who sported lilac slacks and his trademark Hawaiian shirt, it wasn't until his 17th hole that Willis noticed he was atop the leaderboard.
'When I made a bogey on the second hole, my first thought was, 'Great, you put yourself in a position where you'll have to grind it out for the cut,'' said Willis, who finally felt awake about halfway through his round. 'When I turned at 3 under, I was just more concerned with hitting good golf shots. And then I birdied No. 1, which was my 10th hole. After that I felt relaxed.'
Willis, who turns 34 next month, has made $85,682 on the tour this year and another $112,053 in 16 events on the second-tier Nationwide Tour. He won the Tucson Open in 2001 for his lone PGA TOUR victory, but has played more Nationwide tournaments over the past three years than PGA TOUR events. He missed three straight Nationwide cuts during one tough stretch earlier this year.
Willis' PGA TOUR season hasn't been a memorable one.
In his 10 previous starts this year, he withdrew once and missed five cuts.
The 32-year-old McNeill, who recently made a 'drastic change' to shallow out his swing, followed a bogey on No. 8 with an eagle into the wind on No. 9.
'That just carried me on for the next few holes,' he said. 'I kind of started off all boring and monotonous.'
While most players say they are able to focus despite the slow pace that comes with competing in a Pro-Am, they were ready to get to the final rounds this weekend with only pros.
'I've never been paired with a jerk,' Gore said. 'I think that would put a really bad taste in my or everybody's mouth.'
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes