Lawless rules in PGA qualifier

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DAYTON " Marc Lawless is no stranger to Dayton Valley Golf & Country Club, and he makes no bones about how much he likes the course.

Lawless fired a 6-under-par 66 for a 36-hole total of 134 to take the lead at the PGA Stage 1 Qualifier Wednesday afternoon.

Wil Collins, the 2004 medalist, also shot 66 and is a stroke behind at 135 along with first-round leader Clayton Rask, who followed up his first-round 66 with a 3-under-par 69. The low round of the day was registered by Troy Merritt, whose 7-under-par 65 pushed him all the way up to fourth place at 136.

Gary Woodland (67) is alone in fifth at 137 and Eric Meeks (70) is alone in sixth at 138. There is a three-way tie for seventh at 139 with Liam Kendregan (69), Andres Gonzales (70) and James Drew (69). Among the six players tied for 10th at 140 are journeyman Chris Kamin (72), 1999 medalist Tom Kalinowski (68) and 2005 medalist Ben Portie (68).

This is Lawless' first qualifier at Dayton and his fourth overall. He's played tournaments at Dayton Valley before.

"I love this golf course," Lawless said. "My brother and I play in the Pro Scratch tournament here every year. The greens are perfect. The fairways are perfect. It's a good ball-striking course.

"When the wind isn't blowing, it's not a terribly difficult course. When the wind is blowing hard, you've got out of bounds and a lot of water. This is a good course for me."

Lawless had a strong front side, carding four birdies en route to a 32.

Lawless threw up a wedge to within 4 feet and birdied No. 2, and then got up and down for a birdie on No. 5, a par-5. He hit a sand wedge to 2 feet for a birdie on No. 8.

"I damn near could have birdied every hole on the front," Lawless said.

Lawless got it to 5-under-par with a 6-foot birdie putt on No. 11, a par-5, and he quickly moved to 6-under-par with a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-4 14th. His only bogey came on No. 15 when his pitching wedge came up short of the green.

"It got caught in the wind," Lawless said of the approach shot. "I should have used a 9-iron."

On the par-5 18th, he put his 84-yard approach shot on the fringe and rolled in a shot from there. Not a bad way to end the round.

Collins, who is playing for the seventh straight year, had a so-so front side with birdies on Nos. 1 and 8 with a bogey at the par-4 7th. He sizzled on the back nine with a 5-under 31, including an eagle at the par-5 11th.

"I like this course," Collins said. "It's hard to go somewhere else after being here."

The winds were strong at times on Wednesday, and that was fine with Collins.

"You need it to be windy or else you feel like you have to shoot 67 or 68 (everyday) to keep pace," Collins said. "With the wind blowing, it makes it more interesting. I didn't score that well the first round. I scored well on the back. I got some good breaks."

On the 11th, Collins hit a driver off the tee and then drilled a 5-iron onto the green 45 feet away and made the putt.

Collins followed that up with back-to-back birdies on the par-3 13th and the par-4 14th. He chipped in on 13 after missing the green. He finished the round birdie, bogey and birdie.

Rask suffered a triple-bogey on the par-5 11th, his second hole of the day, but managed to rebound for a respectable 3-under 69.

"I birdied the first hole and was sitting at 7-under-par thinking this is a good roll and then hit three straight pull hooks that are unlike me," he said. "But then I figured there are still lots of holes that you can get a hold of for birdies and I had a good day."

Notes: After 36 holes, 26 players were under par on the 7,218-yard Arnold Palmer layout...If the tournament ended today, it would take 2-under-par to move on ... The average score is 72.64 ... There have been 14 eagles and 536 birdies thus far ... The par-4 ninth has played to a 4.58 average, while No. 3, a par-5, has played to a 4.42.


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