Sep 21, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Count just 17 of the holes at Atunyote Golf Club, and Steve Flesch would have a healthy lead going into the last two rounds of the Turning Stone Resort Championship.
However, you have to count them all. And it’s that other hole — the 9th, to be specific – that’s got Flesch clinging to a one-shot advantage over Brendon de Jonge and Jeff Gove with the weekend still ahead.
Back in his opening-round 66, Flesch made a mess of the 9th, a 480-yard, uphill par-4 that’s been the toughest hole at Atunyote so far. Flesch drove into a bunker, didn’t get out with his first escape attempt, and made double bogey, ultimately costing him the Thursday lead as his 66 left him one stroke behind Gove and Chad Campbell.
Fast-forward to Friday afternoon. Flesch began his round at no. 10 and promptly made five consecutive 3’s — birdie, par, eagle, birdie, birdie. When he birdied 18, he turned in 30, and had caught de Jonge, who already has posted his 66.
Cooling off a bit, Flesch still birdied holes 2 and 8 on the front nine, leading him back to the dreaded 9th. His drive and approach were fine this time around — but he three-putted for a bogey.
Thus, Flesch, after his Friday 65, is at 13-under-par 131. The 40-year-old left-hander from Kentucky has three PGA Tour wins to his credit, the most recent coming in August at the Reno-Tahoe Open, and he played in two events of this year’s FedEx Cup playoffs before being eliminated at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston.
In other words, Flesch has the game, and experience, to stay in front through the weekend — something his closest pursuers haven’t proven yet.
De Jonge, a 27-year-old originally from Zimbabwe, played his college golf at Virginia Tech and found a comfort zone with playing partner Johnson Wagner, also a VT grad. He took the lead in the morning and held it with his second consecutive 66, which featured an eagle at the par-5 5th hole, his second eagle of the week.
Gove, whose 100-yard wedge shot into the hole at 18 gave him a share of the first-round lead, did not cool off on Friday. He followed his 65 with a 67, saving that score with a deft up-and-down chip for par on that same 9th hole that has haunted Flesch all week.
Just as in the opening round, players had to go low, or face the prospect of missing a cut that, by day’s end, had gone all the way down to 140, four under par. A dash of summer heat and humidity hit Atunyote, but the winds stayed down, and so did the scores.
Behind the lead trio, Charles Warren parlayed his own back-nine 30 into a 65 to finish at 133, 11 under par. Chris Stroud, Matt Hendrix and Bob Hope Classic winner Charley Hoffman all reached 134 and were 10 under.
Jeff Maggert, with a blistering 64, led a big group that 135 that included Matthew Goggin, Jeff Overton, Briny Baird, Eric Axley, Carl Pettersson, Craig Bowden and Bill Haas, the son of golfing great Jay Haas.
For all the local fans, Horseheads’ own Joey Sindelar gave a particular thrill, carding his second consecutive 68 to lead a pack at 136 that included John Rollins, the 2006 B.C. Open champion at Atunyote. Sindelar is likely to draw the biggest weekend galleries, as long as he stays in contention.
Sindelar and Oswego native David Branshaw, with a 139, survived to the weekend, but New Hartford’s Eric Manning did not, his 73 leaving him at 142, two shots off the line. Matt Kuchar, Bob Tway, Lee Janzen, Henrik Stenson, Shigeki Maruyama and official tournament host Notah Begay III all missed the cut, too.