The wind was blowing hard enough to sweep sand out of the bunkers and knock down scores Friday at the PODS Championship. Jeff Maggert used it to his advantage.
Starting his second round with the wind at his back, Maggert birdied three of his opening four holes and hung on long enough to be leading by three shots at the turn when play was suspended for the rest of the day because of storms.
Maggert was at 8-under par, three shots ahead of Kenny Perry and D.J. Trahan. For the second straight day, none of the late starters came close to finishing the round.
”I’ve only played 27 holes,” Maggert said. ”I’ve got a lot of the tournament in front of me. Even though I have the lead now, I’m not really looking at my position. I’m just trying to play solid and give myself an opportunity to finish off this round with a good score.”
About 15 minutes after the siren sounded to stop play, the sky opened and dumped even more rain on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook. That might not be a bad thing, for softer greens at least gave players a fighting chance.
”At least it’s not cold yet,” said Mark Calcavecchia, the defending champion who shot a 1-under 70 and was tied for the clubhouse lead at 3-under 139 with two-time U.S. Open championLee Janzen (74), Billy Mayfair (71), Stuart Appleby (73) and Paul Casey (72).
Calgary’s Stephen Ames was 1-over par after seven holes when play was halted, following a 71 on Thursday. Jon Mills of Oshawa, Ont., shot a 78 on Friday to go 7-over par.
Only three players among the early starters managed to break 70, with Tim Petrovic and Kevin Sutherland leading the way at 68.
Everyone braced for scores to tumble in the afternoon, so it was a surprise to see Maggert play as though this were the Bob Hope Classic on a calm day in the desert.
Along with getting the good end of the draw, however, Maggert started his second round on the right side of the course.
He holed an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 first hole, then hit driver with the wind at his back 324 yards, leaving him a simple pitch from 78 yards to 5 feet for another birdie. His first big test was the par-3 fourth, which played into the wind. Maggert hammered a 4-iron that fed to the middle of the green, from where he holed an 18-foot birdie.
Others were long gone by then.
Ernie Els, coming off a victory last week in the Honda Classic, birdied his last two holes to salvage a 73, leaving him at 4-over 146 and likely to miss the cut.
”It’s very tough, demanding golf,” he said. ”I didn’t quite have it.”
Davis Love III was 3 under for his first three holes until he started giving shots back, shooting 72 to miss the cut for the second time since returning from ankle surgery.
Six players failed to break 80, including David Toms (81), which might end up costing him a spot in the World Golf Championship in two weeks at Doral.
John Daly also shot 80 for the first time this year.
Janzen, winless since his second U.S. Open title 10 years ago at Olympic Club, played 21 holes on Friday. He returned in the morning to finish his first round, hitting a 3-iron off the pine needles to 20 feet for birdie on the tough 16th to catch first-round leader Bart Bryant at 6-under 65. The next 18 holes were more of a struggle.
The layers of clouds moved quickly over the course behind 45 km/h wind, the kind that exposes the slightest mistakes. Janzen is playing better, but the wind showed him he’s not quite there yet. He made five bogeys, but cobbled enough birdies together to stay in the hunt.
”It’s an extreme challenge to play in the wind,” he said. ”As the round went on, I didn’t quite have my game. I was hoping to run out of holes quick.”
Calcavecchia also had a long day with mixed results, starting with a chip-in for eagle on the 14th hole of his first round in the morning, hanging on for dear life later in the morning to complete his second round. The wind got so strong that he barely cleared the large pond in front of the tee on the par-5 fifth, and he made fun of short-hitting Corey Pavin for waiting on a lull to get over the water.
”That’s the only way he could clear the water,” Calcavecchia said.
A year ago, Calcavecchia narrowly made the cut, then shot 62 in the third round that carried him to victory.
”There won’t be any 62s today or tomorrow,” he said.
Not even the temperature?
”Maybe a 52 with the wind chill,” he said.
A cold front was due, along with more wind, and several players already spent a week in the wind at the Honda Classic.
The 71 players who didn’t finish the second round were to return at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, and no telling what the weather was going to do. Janzen and Calcavecchia had no idea where 3 under would leave them going into the third round, only that they wouldn’t be far off.
”It’s difficult to say whether you get the good side of the draw or the bad side,” Casey said. ”But it’s nice to come out here this morning and just get it done. I’m very, very happy to get in the clubhouse and watch these guys go through what I went through today.”