Barracuda leader Chalmers looks to end winless streak
RENO — Simply put, Greg Chalmers is the sentimental choice to win the 18th annual Barracuda Championships.
The left-handed Chalmers has the longest active drought in PGA Tour history — 385 starts without a victory. When you think of Chalmers you think of the lovable Washington Generals, the perennial losers against the Harlem Globetrotters. He’s the well-liked, plucky underdog.
Chalmers registered six birdies and two bogeys en route to 10 points and the lead at the 36-hole mark. Chalmers has 24 points, two better than 2013 champion Gary Woodland and Martin Laird. Colt Knost is fourth with 21, Brendan Steele is fifth with 20, and Rhein Gibson is sixth at 19. Jason Gore (14 points) and 2006 champ Will MacKenzie (10 points) charged into contention, and are tied for seventh at 18 points along with Steve Wheatcroft. Ben Martin is 10th with 17 points.
This is the third time Chalmers has either held or shared the 36-hole lead. He was tied for first at the 2000 Nissan Open, and was solo first at the 2009 U.S. Bank event.
“I just tried to remain patient,” Chalmers said. “I didn’t do too well on the front nine; one point with a birdie and bogey. I birdied nine and turned around and bogeyed 10.
“I played okay. It wasn’t as good as yesterday ball striking wise, but then I ran a lot of really nice putts. So I stayed out of trouble on the holes I needed to and picked up some really good birdies where I needed to.”
Chalmers stormed back on his final nine with five birdies on his last eight holes (11, 13, 14, 15 and 18).
“I rattled in an 18-footer on 11 and 10-footers on 13 and 14,” he said. “I birdied 15 and then 18.”
Chalmers was just short of the green on the par-5 18th, but he managed to get up and down to get into the top spot.
“I was surprised I was able to get it to spin,” Chalmers said. “I was trying to hit it past the hole. The greens are rolling nicely. The greens are in great shape.
“I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll be leading or anything like that. I’ll certainly be up there around there somewhere. I’m sure someone this afternoon might post a number and get it going a little lower. But the course is drying out. Pins were tougher today. So I’m looking for little bit of breeze and the drying out could be an interesting weekend of scoring.”
Woodland recorded five birdies and two bogeys, but he was disappointed with his round.
“It was really frustrating,” he said. “I didn’t play great today. Struggled really just getting the distances down all day. I missed a lot of greens but I scrambled well. I did do that. And it was nice to finish with a birdie, especially coming off the bogey. The bogey on 8 really hurt, but to finish with a birdie gives me more momentum going into the weekend.”
Woodland’s big day back in 2013 was on Saturday (16 points), and he’s hoping for the same type of magic today.
“I’m comfortable on the golf course,” Woodland said. “The game feels really well. We’ll get that one out of the way and tidy things up and be ready for a big weekend.”
“I did a lot of things well. I chipped the ball exceptionally pretty. I think I chipped it in three or four times on that weekend, which is nice; made some putts as well. Hopefully I bring back some of those good vibes and continue the good play.”
Laird, who recorded five birdies in his first 10 holes (he started on the back nine), got to 24 points and a share of the lead. He dropped back with bogeys on Nos. 4, 5 and 8.
The bogey on the par-5th 8th was especially tough to take. Laird ripped a 3-iron that landed about 5 or 6 yards on the green and rolled all the way to the first cut of rough in the back of the green. He then chipped one that went all the way across the green and went into a greenside bunker. Fortunately, he was able to get up and down to avoid losing a point.
“Hit best driver all day down there, and had a great second shot,” Laird said. “That’s an example of the difference of the afternoon and the start in the morning. I landed that ball, I think, we said six yards on the green. It went all the way over to the back of the green.
“My back nine, which was the front nine today, it got kind of gusty. The greens yesterday morning, you could almost fire right at the flag and the ball’s going to stop. I hit sand wedge into the last hole, and it released about nine yards. Makes some of the front pins, like on 18, a lot tougher.”
Laird felt he missed several opportunities, especially early in the round.
He said he feels confident entering today’s third round.
Knost produced an eight-point day. Starting on the back nine, he birdied three of his first six holes, bogeyed No. 1 and then birdied Nos. 3 and 8.
“Yeah, a lot of good and a lot of bad, honestly,” he said. “Yesterday I really wasn’t happy with my ball-striking. And today, I thought I found something on the range. I hit some better ones but kind of still a little sloppy. It definitely plays tougher here in the afternoon and the greens get a little bumpy.”
Steele recorded 14 straight pars to open the round, and then birdied the par-4 15th and eagled the 616-yard par-5 18th with a 12-foot putt after reaching the green in two.