PGA TOUR

Power shoots 66 to stay in the hunt at the Palmetto Championship at Congaree

By Aaron Murphy  

Seamus Power. Photograph by Golffile

Seamus Power carded a second round five under par 66, to sit in a six-way tie for 4th place at the halfway stage of the Palmetto Championship at Congaree.

Power got off to a great start, picking four birdies on the front nine. The Waterford man got another birdie on the par-4 15th but ran into trouble on the par-4 17th when a wayward drive landed in the deep rough. He managed to find the green but three putted for his first bogey of the day.

The 34-year-old then hit approach on 18 to 11 feet and sunk the birdie to finish six under for the tournament and five shots behind Cheesson Hadley who leads at the halfway stage by two shots from Dustin Johnson.

Conditions were tough, “it was definitely tougher. We played yesterday morning, and it was a lot more moist around the course. Greens were a little slower, a little softer. It didn't seem that tricky. Right from the get-go where I started on the 1st hole today, we kind of knew we were in for a different challenge. I kind of figured out something with my irons on the range yesterday afternoon, so that was much better. I had a nice feel on the greens. All in all, a good day.” said Power.

“My game has felt good enough for a while. I had surgery in November, and I was just slow to come back from that. By the time I got to full practice, I'm already playing into tournaments. That's been the biggest thing, being able to practice fully again, body feels comfortable again.

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Seamus Power. Photo by Golffile

“Got a little confidence there in a little stretch. Played well in Vegas in the Korn Ferry event and played well in Dallas. Yeah, so just trying to build on that.

“You know, even when things are good in practice, it's still just a little bit extra confidence to see it in the tournament, and even obviously it was the Korn Ferry event in Las Vegas that gave me a lot of confidence. I hit a lot of good shots down the stretch. I hit some confidence shots with a lot of wind and all that stuff. Really from there, I've been able to build on it, just knowing the stuff I have done to improve my game, it is working, and it's just kind of a matter of time.

Chesson Hadley cracked himself up. After taking the solo lead at 11 under by backing up a first-round 65 with a 66 on Friday in the Palmetto Championship, he was describing how hot he’s been with his putter. “So, if I can just keep riding the putter—she's a sweet girl. So, I'll just ride her until … you know.”

While trying to answer the next question, he paused and laughed. “I'm just kind of thinking about that last comment I made now," he said. "Use that. Absolutely.”

There you go Chesson. It’s for all the world to see now.

There was actually a sweet story behind the putter, which he and his caddie have dubbed “Nana Jr.” He had one putter he named “Nana” after his grandmother. He said she passed away earlier this year, and when he went to another putter, he still had to honour her.

“She is just like the most lovely and sweet, kind woman,” Hadley said. “That's how I want my putter to be—lovely and sweet and kind, right? She's just good to you, right? So, she's Nana.”

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Chesson Hadley. Photo by Matthew Stockman

Hadley, 33, was in an extremely good mood after coming out of some dark days of late. His first 36-hole lead ever comes after he’s missed 12 cuts in 18 starts this year, including five straight from mid-April to this week. He took three weeks off after the Byron Nelson and came back rejuvenated.

“You don't believe you can do that during your midst of five missed cuts,” Hadley said. “You don't, I promise you. I was thinking about a lot of other things other than golf.
“But I have done this before. I have won on the PGA Tour [2014 Puerto Rico Open]. I've won golf tournaments over my career. When you start playing well, you remember those things, and I'm starting to get some feels like that again. Obviously, we're a long way from the winner's circle, and that's not what I'm saying. I'm so thankful to just feel that again, like I belong out here type of thing.”

It hasn’t been Hadley’s putter that’s the problem. He ranks 14th on tour in strokes gained on the greens. But he’s 187th in SG/off-the-tee and 192nd in SG/tee-to-green.
Hadley is one of those guys whom the more you hear talk, the more you’d like to see more of him. He had a fantastic description on the vagaries of the game.

“Sometimes the ball just looks different,” he said. “You haven't done anything, and you just wake up one day, and it just looks different for some reason. That just changes everything.”

Dustin Johnson seemed a whole lot better off than J.T. Poston. When a short but torrential rain shower arrived in the second round, Johnson stood calmly at No. 14 under an umbrella while Poston got soaked because his caddie didn’t pack a jacket or umbrella. By the time the shower was over, Johnson was back to putting in sunshine.

All good, right? Not exactly. Apparently, DJ’s glove—and maybe his 3-iron grip—got just wet enough that when he hit his tee shot on the par-4 18th, his hand slipped. The ball shot left, and in another glitch of back luck, it ended up in an unplayable lie in one of the few bushes on the hole. Johnson had to take a drop, missed the green and ended up making a double-bogey 6 that dropped him two shots back of Hadley.

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Dustin Johanson. Photo by Mike Ehrmann

It was an ugly finish for DJ, who also missed a 6-foot birdie putt at 17 and finished with a 68.

Still, the World No. 1 clearly is the favourite this weekend to win for the first time ever in his home state of South Carolina. Hadley has only one win in his career, and there are bunch of journeymen or young guys behind them whose career wins combined don’t add to DJ’s 24.

It’s not as if Brooks Koepka is trying to miss cuts. Or that it doesn’t eat at him. It’s just that, clearly, he can’t quite find a way to get his mind right for regular PGA Tour events the way he does the majors.

After shooting 72-73 at Conagree, Koepka has another weekend off, and it’s becoming a bit too much of a trend. Koepka now has missed six cuts this season—the most in a single campaign in his career. And though he termed this week as a ‘rep” for next week’s U.S. Open test at Torrey Pines, it sure seems like he’d want to get more competitive work in.

And let’s be mindful of Brooks’ career record: eight PGA Tour wins, four of which have come in majors (two in U.S. Open, two in PGA Championship). Though we also should note that the last regular victory was not long ago, in February in Phoenix.

Koepka, making his first start after tying for second in the PGA at Kiawah Island, didn’t shy away from the discussion on Friday.

“I don't know, I just have a harder time focusing in regular PGA Tour events than I do majors,” he said. “Majors, I know I'm locked in from the moment I hit the first tee shot. Even walking from the first tee shot to the ball, my head is still going on what I need to do. Out here I kind of lose focus for a little bit.

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Brooks Koepka. Phto by Golffile

“I've got to figure it out. That's why I struggle, I think, in regular events. It's the focus and the energy, the excitement level just isn't there when it would be in a major. It's different. I thrive off that bigger stage, that big moment where there's a bunch of fans and a tough golf course. I love it.

“I mean, this golf course is tough enough. It's firm. It's blowing. You know, just needed to be better.”

For those concerned about the state of Koepka’s surgically repaired knee heading into Torrey Pines, he said “it’s in a really good spot.”

“I like where it's at,” he said. “I've done enough rehab, strength's coming around. I mean, I can almost squat down to read a putt like normal. Didn't do it too much this week just because I don't want to screw it up for next week.”

Padraig Harrington finished with a one over par 72 to miss the cut by two shots.

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