If you thought Thursday’s top-heavy leaderboard was impressive at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, it was just as impressive to watch the guys pressing lower still on Friday.
Michael Putnam shot 5-under Thursday and then came storming back Friday with a 7-under 64 to take a 1-shot lead over Shawn Stefani and Jason Bohn who both shot 6-under on the day.
Putnam is an interesting story. Graduating from Pepperdine in 2005, his amateur record was so distinguished that he ended up playing on both the Palmer Cup and the Walker Cup teams. But coming off the Web.com Tour as the leading money winner in 2006, his professional career hasn’t quite taken off. Waylaid by a Major Medical Extension in 2011 for a broken bone in his left wrist, his playing form didn’t really round out until 2014 when he finished 93rd on the FedExCup points list. But he had to go down to the Web.com Tour in 2013 (where he was named Player of the Year) to get there. At 6’4″ and 215 pounds, he has the look of someone who would be 17th in Driving Distance this year.
Stefani, coming out of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, joined the Tour in 2013 off the Web.com Tour and managed to finish 83rd in FedExCup points. He’s succeeding because he’s above the averages in Driving Distance and Greens in Regulation.
Bohn has been on the Tour since 2004 making it through the old Q-School route and won twice, the 2005 B.C. Open and the 2010 Zurich Classic in New Orleans. Playing with his share of sidelining injuries through the years, Bohn is the guy who won a $1 million hole-in-one contest in 1996 and immediately gave up his amateur status to take the money. He received his last $50,000 payment in 2012.
In addition to Stefani and Bohn, 5 other players managed to shoot 6-under, Thursday’s low round. With Putnam at 7-under, the low round of the day belonged to long-time journeyman and inspirational first-time winner in the 2013 Travelers Championship, Ken Duke. He shot 8-under 63 with no bogeys.
Two of the 6-unders belonged to Canadian, David Hearn and Nicholas Thompson, Lexi’s big brother. That got them to T5 with Alex Cejka and Will MacKenzie. The 2007 Champion, Fred Funk, who’s been playing on the Champions Tour full time since 2008, was one of the other 6-unders. He’s at T9.
At the bottom of the leaderboard, the cut was at 3-under. Here’s a list of guys who made it on the number and how many under they had to shoot on Friday to do it:
5-under: Rory Sabbatini
3-under: Nick Taylor (last week’s winner), Alvaro Quiros, Ben Curtis, Spencer Levin, Erik Compton, Patrick Cantlay
2-under: John Merrick, J.J. Henry, Tom Hoge (rookie)
1-under: Scott Langley, Freddie Jacobson, Brian Stuard
We all know that golf is a fickle game, but nevertheless here are notables that provided some level of surprise that they missed the cut: Justin Leonard, William McGirt, Davis Love III, Carl Pettersson, Angel Cabrera, Camilo Villegas, Charles Howell III, Nick Watney, Padraig Harrington, Mark Wilson.
So Saturday brings the stark reality into focus for the survivors of what they’ll have to do to keep up. Most will be licking their chops knowing what’s possible in scoring while some will play with that nagging feeling that the field may run away from them. I’m interested in both ends of that spectrum; each tells us a lot about mastery.