RTO leader still 'Flesch-ing' it out

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RTO leader still 'Flesch-ing' it out

RENO- Steve Flesch is in a familiar place at the Reno-Tahoe Open - firstplace after 36 holes.

The left-handed Flesch carded six birdies en route to a 3-under-par 69 to finish with a two-day total of 12-under-par 132 at Montreux Golf & Country Club. Back in 2002, he was in a three-way tie for first at 134 after two rounds and eventually finished in a tie for sixth place.

Charles Warren, who had the day's best round with a 9-under 63 is two strokes behind at 10-under 134. Another player two strokes back at 136 is Jose Coceres, who struggled on the back side en route to a level par 72.

There is a logjam at 7-under 137, including Reno's Todd Fischer (68), Johnson Wagner (69), Brendon de Jonge (70), Jason Dufner (70) and Steve Allan (72).

Shaun Micheel, the 2003 PGA Open champion, leads a group of six golfers at 6-under par 138, and defending champion Will MacKenzie shot a 1-over-par 73 for a 5-under-par 139.

Flesch, who hasn't won since the 2004 Bank of America Colonial, said that the experience of being in the lead before is helpful.

"A little bit," he said. "I just like playing here. It was tough out there, and it got tougher (later in the day). It was different than yesterday morning. I'm just glad I'm playing better (overall). I'm just trying to get to the FedExCup. Just trying to play well so I have a spot."

Flesch was referring to the wind, which got as high as 30 miles-per-hour in the latter part of the afternoon. Flesch actually is hoping that the wind sticks around the next two days.

Sounds strange, but there is a method to his madness.

"There tends to be low scores (here)," Flesch said. "The scoring average yesterday had to be very low, but there was no wind. I think when you're leading, you don't want to feel like somebody is going to shoot 62 or 63 every day. You feel like you've got to play better. Even par is not a good score on tour anymore, but sometimes in conditions like this, it is.

"There is a certain amount of wind where it really helps you shape shots. Five to 10 mile-per-hour winds helps you shape shots. If it's coming off the right side, you can hold a shot up into it or let it ride the wind and pick up some distance. When you get 25 to 35 mile-per-hour winds, you really have to pay attention to club selection, especially off the tee on some of the narrow holes."

Flesch, who started his round on the back side, birdied the par-5 11th when he chipped to within a foot of the cup and tapped in. He dropped back to 9-under with a bogey on No. 14, but got that shot back with a 3-foot birdie putt on the 477-yard par-4 15th.

He birdied the par-5 17th thanks to a chip that got him within 12 feet. He hit a sand wedge to 3 feet for a birdie on No.18 to go 12-under.

The leader gave two shots back on the par-3 2nd hole when his 7-iron off the tee buried in the bunker. It took two shots to get out and two shots to get in the cup for a double bogey.

He nailed birdie putts of 3 feet on No. 4 and 2 feet on No. 8 to climb back to 12-under. Great iron play led to all of his birdies, but that's normal for Flesch.

"Over the course of my career, my iron game has always been the strongest part so I'm happy that's kind of behavin' a little bit now," he said.

Warren, who has topped the $1 million mark in each of the last two years, said the key to his success was his switch to the Belly putter for the first time earlier this week.

"I had it before Sergio (Garcia) played in the British Open, so I'm not a copycat," he told reporters. "My ball striking has always been good enough to compete out here, it's just a matter of me putting well from time to time to give myself a chance. I just felt like it was time to try something new. I grabbed it and shot 5 under at the pro-am on Monday."

Warren used 28 putts on Thursday en route to a 71, and needed 25 on Friday for his 63, which was one stroke off the record. The 63 bettered his previous low in a second round by three shots.

Warren, who started on the back nine, parred No. 10 and then reeled off three straight birdies.

On the 584-yard par-5 11th, he was in the greenside bunker in two, blasted out to 2 feet and drained the short birdie putt. He sank a 10-foot birdie putt on the 186-yard par-3 12th. The birdie binge continued on No. 13 when he knocked in a 5-foot putt. After four straight pars, he knocked his approach shot to 2 feet on No. 18 and made the ensuing putt for a 4-under 32.

After pars at No. 1 and No. 2, Warren went birdie-eagle-birdie. On No. 3, he hit his approach shot to 12 feet and sank the putt. On the par-5 4th, he banged his second shot just short of the green and then chipped in from 27 feet for an eagle, his PGA-leading12th on the year.

On the 367-yard par-4 5th, he knocked in a 10-footer for birdie. He concluded the round with a 6-foot birdie putt.

This is Warren's second appearance in Reno. He tied for 22nd in 1999, the first year of the event.

"This was the golf course where I had my best finish of a pretty miserable year that year, so I had some pretty good vibes coming into this week," he said.

If Warren's vibes are good, you can bet Coceres isn't hearing any Beach Boys right now. Birdies at No. 1 and No. 4 got Coceres to 10-under-par and one shot off the lead.

That's when the proverbial roof caved in.

Coceres double bogeyed the par-5 11th when he topped his second shot in the fairway and his third shot still left him 148 yards short of the green. His next shot was short of the green. He chipped on and two-putted for an ugly seven.

He birdied Nos. 13 and 14, but finished the side with bogeys at 15 and 16.

"I played good in the second round except for the double-bogey at 11 and two other bogeys," Coceres said. "It (the weather) changed today. This afternoon, too windy. I played in the afternoon (today) and I was even. I'm very happy to play Saturday and Sunday."

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281


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