BROUSSARD — Who said anything about the Web.com Tour being the haven for the young?
Don’t tell PGA Tour veterans Darron Stiles and Arjun Atwal that. Both of them looked plenty young at heart here Friday in the second round of the $550,000 Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
The two led a birdie-fest at the Le Triomphe Golf & Country Club in the second round of the season’s first U.S.-based Web.com Tour event. Stiles had eight birdies on his way to a 7-under par 64, which gave him a one-stroke lead at the halfway point, while Atwal had a round of 6-under 65 with eight birdies and an eagle.
Stiles has a one-stroke lead on the field at 11-under 131, with Atwal at 132.0
Three other players are one more stroke back at 133 and a fivesome stands at 8-under 134 entering Saturday’s third round, one in which starting times have been moved up in the face of possible adverse weather conditions during the afternoon. Play will be in threesomes off both the Nos. 1 and 10 tees beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, with the leaders going out at 10:30 a.m.
John Daly won’t be in that group after a shocking back side, where he triple-bogeyed the par-five 12th, double-bogeyed the par-four 13th and bogeyed the par-four 14th to see what was a 7-under-par score whittle down to one under. He drove into water hazards on both 12 and 13.
“I’m kind of in a shock thing, really,” Daly said. “I missed one time on the 12th and had a mis-club into the bunker, and tried to blast out. Pretty much nothing went right there. On 13 I thought I hit a beautiful drive and it caught the end of the water, and next thing you know, a triple and a double and I really didn’t miss any golf balls.”
Daly finished with a 2-over 73 after closing the front nine with four birdies in a five-hole stretch.
“I’m hitting the ball so good, I just didn’t make a lot of putts,” Daly said. “I can get over the triple and the double, but when you putt as bad as I did today that makes it tough. The last four holes, I thought I hit great putts on 15 and 16.
“I hung in there. It’s just the funk that I’m in. If there were 14 holes on every golf course I would have won a lot more golf tournaments.”
Stiles is sneaking up on his 40th birthday in just over two months, while Atwal hit that milestone two days ago. Both have played over 100 PGA Tour events, with Atwal having hit the winners’ circle there in the 2010 Wyndham Championship.
“I think I’m eight-under on the par-fives this week,” said Stiles, who birdied all four on Friday. “That’s the key on this course. If you can get the par-fives, and then get one or two somewhere else, that’s six a day and that will usually get it done.”
“You absolutely have to take advantage of the par-fives here,” said Atwal, whose Friday card listed two birdies and an eagle on that quartet. “There’s no excuse not to birdie at least three of the four.”
Stiles birdied four of his first eight holes.
“Fortunately, the hole got in the way,” he said of his second birdie. “If not, I might have been chipping. It’s straight downhill past the hole and it could easily have been 10 to 12 feet by. I think my caddie had the wedge ready for me.”
He added a 12-footer for birdie on the 15th and was four-under before taking his only bogey on the 18th when he found the front bunker with the pin well back. But he came back with a six-footer for birdie on the par-five first hole, and had kick-in birdies on the par-five fifth and seventh before ending his round with a curling 20-footer on his wrapup ninth hole.
“That was a good way to finish,” he said. “I’ve been playing well. I was the second alternate and didn’t get in at Tampa (last week’s PGA Tour Tampa Bay Championship), and I thought if I got in there that I would do well. You have to hit the fairways here and I drove it well today, but my iron game was a little more solid.”
Stiles wasn’t the only high-finisher to struggle on the 18th. Atwal put his drive into the right water hazard and ended up with a double-bogey six.
“That was kind of exciting,” he said. “I blocked my tee shot right and then I had to drop way back. I still had 235 yards to the pin.”
The threesome of Jason Gore, Troy Merritt and Ben Martin are all two strokes back of Stiles, with that group shooting 65, 66 and 67.
“I saw the scores early online before I played,” Stiles said “but I wasn’t paying attention. It’s early.”
Five players are one more stroke back at 8-under 134 including first-day co-leader Danny Ellis (65-69).
and 2003 and 2011 Louisiana Open champion Brett Wetterich (68-66), who is bidding to become the first player in Web.com Tour history to win the same even three times.
Ellis shared the first-day lead with former LSU standout and 2011 NCAA champion John Peterson, but Peterson could only manage a one-over 72 on Friday and is tied for 19th at five-under 137.
“I birdied the first hole and everything was bad after that,” Peterson said. “It was a struggle. It’s tough to score in the afternoon and I didn’t expect to go out and shoot 65 again. Putts were lipping out ... I was just slightly off.”
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