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Finau, O'Toole claim No. 1 seeds at Big Break Invitational

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LAKE OCONEE, Ga. – Normally through two rounds of an event, the best players advance to the weekend and try to extend their lead, while players who didn't perform as well are left giving chase.

But this isn't a normal event.

No, the Big Break Invitational Reynolds Plantation does things a little differently. And why shouldn’t it? The 40 competitors gathered this week aren’t your normal golfers.

Sure, there are PGA Tour and LPGA pros in the field, but “Big Break” is more than the sum of its parts. Enter loopy loopers – hello, Kip Henley and Don Donatello, who both currently caddie on the PGA Tour – and a Pro Football Hall of Famer in Jerry Rice. Neither the event, nor its cast of characters, are lwhat you’re used to seeing on the professional stages. 

The first two rounds of the Big Break Invitational were played as a Modified Stableford, where the more points players racked up, the better. But after the first two rounds, the 12 men and 12 women remaining will start anew when they tee it up at the Great Waters Course on Thursday.

OK, it's not quite that cut and dry. There is the issue of seeding for match play in the third round. But as any golfer knows, there are no guarantees when it comes to match play.

“Tomorrow the slate is clean, for all 12 players, men and women,” Justin Peters said. “Doesn’t matter if you had 60 points or 40 points; if you’re No. 1 or No. 12. In match play, anything can happen. It’s just one day, one on one.”

Peters birdied three of his last four holes Wednesday to sneak into the last spot as the No. 12 seed.

“I don’t think anybody’s scared of me at this point,” Peters said. “You see [volatility] in match play. No. 1 goes down sometimes.”

That No. 1 will be Tony Finau, and while no one is scared of Peters, perhaps Peters should be scared of Finau, after rounds of 67-70 and a two-day Stableford score of plus-55.

“I definitely wanted to be that No. 1 seed,” Finau said. "I knew whether I was [the] 1 seed or 12 seed, you live another day.”

Anything can happen, but the way Finau’s been playing of late, he’s showing no signs of slowing. Two weeks ago, he finished T-14 at the Tour Championship after completing a rookie season with five top 10s, including a win at the Stonebrae Classic in August. He’ll be a PGA Tour rookie next season.

On the ladies side, Kim Welch, who’s the No. 9 seed, couldn’t be more excited about starting from scratch.

“It’s great,” Welch said, “because I feel like I played OK yesterday, I played bad today, but tomorrow’s a new day and anything can happen in match play.”

The No. 1 seed for the women is Ryan O’Toole, who finished 11 points clear of her next closest competitor through two rounds. The landscape isn’t quite as picturesque for O’Toole, who desperately needs some positive mojo after making only five made cuts in 18 LPGA events this season.

“Two more days left,” O’Toole said. “Obviously today just positions me for match play but it doesn’t really give me that much of a boost. So, tomorrow is a new round, and a new tournament.”

A new round and a new tournament, yes, but hopefully some things stay the same for O’Toole over the next two days – she blitzed the Great Waters Course on Wednesday with an 8-under 64, the lowest round of the week from a man or woman. Mark Silvers shot 6-under 66 Wednesday for the low round on the men’s side.

That low round will help her if she advances to Friday, when women and men play head-to-head in stroke play. It’s a challenge she welcomes.

“I look forward come Friday and being able to compete head-to-head with one of the guys to see the difference and to see what they do,” O’Toole said. “We play our tees, and so I will enjoy being ahead of them off the tee.”

That is, of course, an entire day – and perhaps an entire “tournament” – away. Even though O’Toole and Finau have been playing superb thus far, as golfers all know, anything can happen in match play.

The 12 men who advanced and their seeds for third-round match play are:

No. 1: Tony Finau

No. 2: Mark Murphy

No. 3: Mark Silvers

No. 4: Tommy Gainey

No. 5: Derek Gillespie

No. 6: Hugo Leon

No. 7: David Byrne

No. 8: Brian Cooper

No. 9: Kent Eger

No. 10: Brent Long

No. 11: Jay Woodson

No. 12: Justin Peters

The 12 women who advanced and their seeds for third-round match play are:

No. 1: Ryann O’Toole

No. 2: Emily Talley

No. 3: Gerina Piller

No. 4: Sedena Parks

No. 5: Jackie Stoelting

No. 6: Kristy McPherson

No. 7: Sara Brown

No. 8: Elena Robles

No. 9: Kim Welch

No. 10: Stefanie Kenoyer

No. 11: Carling Nolan

No. 12: Mallory Blackwelder