Torrid Second-Round Finish Keeps Strother atop Woodside Plantation Leaderboard
By Stewart Moore
Aiken, SC – One of the hardest tasks in all of sports is to follow up a record-setting day with another admirable performance, especially 24 hours later. Gordon Strother of St. Simons Island, GA, who opened this week’s Championship at Woodside Plantation with a course-record-setting 11-under 61 on Wednesday, more than held his own in Thursday’s second round.
Thanks in part to a strong finish over his final four holes, Strother posted a 2-under 70 on day two to reach 13-under 131 at the event’s halfway point, and will take a two-shot lead into Friday’s third round.
The Championship at Woodside Plantation is the 17th event of the 2012 eGolf Tour season and is being contested this week at the Rees Jones-designed Wisteria Course at Woodside Plantation Country Club in Aiken, SC.
Strother’s opening-round 61 was a study in perfection, as the former Auburn University golfer recorded nine birdies and one eagle en route to his record-setting day. His 11-under effort, which broke the prior course record by one, gave him a commanding four-shot lead entering Thursday’s second round of the 72-hole event. Looking to pick up where he left off, Strother found the going a bit more difficult out of the gate on day two.
Starting on the back nine of the Rees Jones-designed Wisteria course, Strother was immediately thrust into a difficult game of comparison, as that was the same nine he posted a 7-under 29 on roughly 15 hours earlier.
Pars on Nos. 10 through 14 gave the soft-spoken Strother a solid start, but one that did little to extend his advantage on the field. A bogey at the par-3 15th – his first of the week – dropped him down to 1-over on the day.
At the downhill par-3 17th, the Brunswick, GA native got one back with a birdie that took him to even par on the day. A bogey at the par-4 18th, however, erased the birdie and left Strother with a 1-over 37 on the turn.
“I didn’t have my best stuff early on, but I knew I was still in good position through nine, especially if I played well on the back nine,” said Strother, 26.
Pars on Nos. 1 through 5, which mimicked the five-hole stretch of pars that opened his round, soon gave way to a strong finish for Strother. A birdie at the par-4 sixth moved him back to even par for the day, while a follow-up birdie at the par-5 seventh took him into red figures for the first time on Thursday.
A solid up-and-down from a greenside bunker at the par-3 eighth took Strother to the uphill par-4 ninth, where a curling 15-foot birdie putt found the bottom of the hole for a closing birdie that left him with a 2-under 70 on the day.
“I was pretty happy with the way the day turned out, honestly,” he said. “I knew there were birdies out there, and I had a couple of good opportunities, but I just didn’t capitalize on them. For some reason, I couldn’t get my approach shots pin high – I was either long or short.”
The top of the leaderboard is a fairly new locale for Strother, who has just one top-25 finish in 34 career starts on the eGolf Tour dating back to the summer of 2009.
“I’ve always enjoyed being in the lead,” Strother said after his round. “I’m playing well and putting well, so I feel like it’s something I can keep up going into the weekend.”
Earlier in the week, Strother switched to an old Odyssey 2-Ball putter which had proved fruitful last year. Looking to change up his putting routine and throw a kink into a part of his game that wasn’t working well, Strother pulled the Odyssey putter out of the tool box in his truck, hoping to reclaim some of the short game glory the flatstick produced when he won a mini-tour event last June.
“I feel good over my putts this week, a lot better than before,” he said. “But there is so much golf left and these guys are so good. I just have to keep doing what I’m doing and hope that it will be enough.”
Brian Duncan of Mount Pleasant, SC and Jin Jeong of Busan, South Korea are tied for second, two shots behind Strother at 11-under 133.
Duncan, a current Web.com Tour member, followed up a first-round 67 with a second-round 66 on Thursday to reach 11-under 133 at the event’s halfway point.
The 36-hole standing is familiar ground for Duncan, who has now played in the either the final threesome, or the penultimate threesome, in the third round, in four of his last five starts on the eGolf Tour – dating back to the River Hills Classic in May.
Duncan’s 2012 campaign has been far and away his most consistent yet, with 10 of 10 made cuts on the year (including this week) and six top-25 finishes under his belt.
On Thursday, the former Clemson University standout began his second round on the back nine, and quickly made his move with birdies on Nos. 11, 14, 15, 16 and 17 to turn at 5-under 31, and 10-under on the week. On his closing nine, Duncan overcame a bogey at the par-4 first with birdies on Nos. 4 and 6 to reach 6-under for the day, where he eventually finished with a round of 66. The 67-66 start marked the sixth time this year that he has opened an event with back-to-back rounds in the 60s.
Jeong, the 2010 British Amateur champion, opened his week with a 6-under 66 to sit in a tie for fourth through 18 holes of play. On Thursday, birdies on five of his first six holes had the former amateur sensation on the cusp of a record-setting round – suddenly 11-under on the week with 12 holes still to play.
His hot start, however, would cool with a bogey at the par-4 10th that took him to 4-under on the day. A late birdie at the par-5 14th returned Jeong to 5-under, where he finished after posting pars on his final four holes for a second-round 67.
The 22-year-old, who now resides in Melbourne, Australia, earned international acclaim for his British Amateur win (where he became the first Asian-born player to win), and more than justified the hype with a T14 finish at the 2010 Open Championship – where he garnered low amateur honors. A win at the prestigious Riversdale Cup in 2010, as well as an amateur win at the Tasmanian Open that same year, vaulted Jeong to No. 1 in the R&A’s World Amateur Golf Ranking.
Jeong has been playing the eGolf Tour full time since May of this year, and has posted two top-5s in seven starts thus far. The first of those two top-5s came in the form of a runner-up finish at his eGolf Tour debut at the Willow Creek Open, as rounds of 70-67-64—201 left him one shot shy of winner (and eGolf Tour leading money winner) Drew Weaver.
Michael Sims of Bermuda, David Bradshaw of Harpers Ferry, WV and Chesson Hadley of Raleigh, NC are tied for fourth, three shots behind Strother at 10-under 134.
Hadley, currently second on the eGolf Tour money list, is just two weeks removed from claiming his first eGolf Tour title at the inaugural River Landing Open.
The 36-hole cut fell at 2-under 142, with 45 players making it through to the final 36 holes of play. Third-round play in The Championship at Woodside Plantation will begin at 8:00 AM on Friday morning at Woodside Plantation. The tournament is open to the public and free of charge.