Keegan Bradley hits off the eighth fairway during the second round of the Byron Nelson Championship golf tournament Friday, May 17, 2013, in Irving, Texas. Bradley ended the day at 11 under par for the tournament. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Friday, May 17, 2013 8:25 pm
Bradley has 3-stroke lead after 2 rounds at Nelson
By STEPHEN HAWKINSAP Sports Writer
Unlike the first round, Bradley didn't set a course record. But he still finished with a three-stroke lead.
Bradley started and ended his round Friday with those bogeys, part of a 1-under 69 that got him to 11-under 129, the lowest 36-hole total at the Nelson since 2001.
"I'm almost more proud of this round than yesterday because I didn't feel comfortable all day," said Bradley, whose opening 60 included his only bogeys at those same holes in the middle of that round. "I don't know what it was, I can't put my finger on it but, you know, I bogeyed the first hole. I was a little uncomfortable and then I settled in and hit some really good shots."
Tom Gillis, who shot 63 in the first group of the day off the No. 10 tee, and Sang-Moon Bae (66) were tied for second.
A stroke further back were 2012 PGA Tour rookie of the year John Huh (64), Ryan Palmer (68) and 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (70). Schwartzel had an opening 63 and was the closest to Bradley after the first round.
"It was a bit up and down out there," said Schwartzel, who had three birdies and three bogeys. "Bit of a frustrating day, but I suppose it's the mix."
Bradley, whose first PGA Tour victory came as a rookie at the Nelson two years ago, started his second round with a drive that missed the fairway at the 458-yard first hole, then left his approach short of the green.
"The first hole is probably the easiest hole out here," he said. "I don't know why I keep making bogey on that hole."
At No. 18, he drove right into rough under the trees again near a cart path. He punched the ball, which rolled and flirted with water to the left before settling into a swale behind the green. He chipped to 6 1/2 feet, but missed the par putt.
"I've got a four-shot lead, so the last thing I wanted to do was plop it in the water. I bailed out," said Bradley, who also won the PGA Championship in 2011 and the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational last year. "I didn't hit that bad of a shot it just got in the wind. I thought it was going to be way left of where it was, but I'm going to hit good ones Saturday and Sunday."
In between those bogeys, Bradley had another bogey at No. 6, four birdies and several nice par-saving shots, including a two-putt from 35 feet after driving into the trees at No. 14 and a blast to 4 feet of the hole from a greenside bunker at No. 15.
Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old amateur from China, missed the cut with rounds of 70 and 77.
After driving into the rough and then hitting into two bunkers for a double-bogey 6 at No. 12, his third hole Friday, Guan had a 19-foot birdie putt on the following par 3. He then had five consecutive bogeys.
Guan last month made the cut at the Masters and then again in New Orleans, becoming the youngest player ever to make the cut on the PGA Tour. He said he "probably" would stay in the United States to play more golf, but wasn't specific about where or confirm if he would play in a U.S. Open sectional qualifier June 3.
Defending Nelson champion Jason Dufner, playing with good friend Bradley, had his second consecutive 70 to make the cut of even par.
Gillis got rolling with three consecutive birdies, starting with a 13-foot putt at No. 12 before burying a 32-footer on the 180-yard par 3 right after that. His only bogey came at his closing hole, when he three-putted from 12 1/2 feet at the 427-yard ninth hole.
He had played an afternoon round Thursday, when 13 players shot 66 or better in the morning and the only one in the afternoon was Marc Leishman with a 66.
"It was easier, I think the wind was down and I was hoping that we would get a fair shot like they had (Thursday) morning just to see what it would be like," Gillis said. "Definitely, I thought it played better than in the afternoon."
After 1 1/2 inches of rain fell on the course Wednesday night, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls hit in fairways and other short-cut areas. That rule remained in place Friday, even though the grounds were dry and the greens were firming up with more breezy conditions.
Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton matched Gillis for the best round Friday, his 63 a nine-stroke improvement from the opening round to put him in a tie for 13th.
Gillis had missed his last five cuts with 12 straight rounds without breaking 70 before his opening 1-under 69 even while bogeys on three of his last four holes.
Asked about what was different this week, Gillis said he was more relaxed after reuniting with his coach.
"I stepped with a way for a couple of months and tried to do some things on my own and kind of got lost," Gillis said before explaining their separation. "We had disagreements on some things. ... You talk things out, work things out. People change. I think he was right all along, to be honest with you."
Bae, the 26-year-old South Korean who has 11 international victories but none on the PGA Tour, had six birdies and in his second 66 in a row.
"That was a little weird, I thought this course was very windy, but (Thursday) morning was really good weather," Bae said. "So yeah, different, but I shoot same score as (Thursday), so I'm happy."