NAPLES, Fla. – Saturday is known as moving day in professional golf.
At the end of the second round of the QBE Shootout, there’s quite the traffic jam after movement in both directions at Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort.
First-round leaders Harold Varner III and Ryan Palmer stumbled a bit on a windy day in the modified alternate shot format, but when it was all over, they still had a piece of the lead – albeit with four other teams including Jason Kokrak and J.T. Poston, Kevin Tway and Rory Sabbatini, Bubba Watson and Charles Howell III, and Brendon Todd and Billy Horschel.
“It was a grind,” Varner said. “I enjoy that part of golf. It’s way more fun when you have someone else with you. It’s nice to have a chance (Sunday).”
“It’s a tough format,” Poston said.
“If we roll a few more in (on Sunday) … we didn’t waste any today,” Kokrak said.
All five sides are at 19 under, and former Ryder Cup teammates Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter are one shot behind that.
None of the 12 players in the top six groups have won the tournament except for Poulter, who won with Dustin Johnson back in 2010.
Teams will play better ball in Sunday’s final round.
The wind and the format led to quite a few bogeys, including by Varner and Palmer on No. 11 after both hit it into either side of the woods. Kokrak and Poston couldn’t take advantage, with Kokrak hitting it into the greenside bunker, and both teams left with bogeys.
Tway and Sabbatini had the lead at that point, but only had one birdie in the last six holes.
Todd, who had back-to-back wins a month ago and was a last-minute replacement for and injured Brandt Snedeker, and Horschel birdied two of the last four.
“I knew when Brendon was going to be my partner when Sneds had to withdraw I got a better partner – sorry, Sneds,” Horschel said with a chuckle. “But Brendon’s been playing really well, two wins, fourth-place finish, I was probably the happiest guy in the world at that point.”
Watson and Howell had back-to-back birdies to finish.
“We were good today and it was really windy,” Watson said. “Solid off the tee with two balls in fairway every hole makes it easier in this format. Sunday the routine is simple — look for birdies.”
McDowell and Poulter were hoping for some wind, got their wish, and took advantage with a 7-under 65 to tie for the best score of the day.
“We wanted a tougher day today because we needed to make a move,” McDowell said. “I think through eight holes we were 4 under today in modified alternate and that’s what we were in scramble (Friday), so we knew we were doing OK.”
McDowell had a little fun with his partner.
“Anytime you’re playing partner format with this guy, it’s always fun when he’s in the mood,” McDowell said. “Obviously his Ryder Cup record speaks for itself and he was in the mood today, so it was fun.”
“I’m always in the mood,” Poulter responded, “It’s just not always the right mood.
“We’ve obviously timed the gap to the front, and obviously if we can go out there (Sunday) and play like we should, then hopefully we can go close,” he added.
The leaderboard after Saturday’s round was quite close enough.
Round 2 scores
|Position||Players||R1 score||R2 score||To par|
|T-1||Brendon Todd-Billy Horschel||59||66||-19|
|T-1||Bubba Watson-Charles Howell III||59||66||-19|
|T-1||Rory Sabbatini-Kevin Tway||58||67||-19|
|T-1||Harold Varner III-Ryan Palmer||55||70||-19|
|T-1||J.T. Poston-Jason Kokrak||57||68||-19|
|6||Ian Poulter-Graeme McDowell||61||65||-18|
|T-7||Chez Reavie-Kevin Chappell||60||67||-17|
|T-7||Andrew Putnam-Corey Conners||61||66||-17|
|T-7||Kevin Kisner-Charley Hoffman||58||69||-17|
|10||Matthew Wolff-Viktor Hovland||65||65||-14|
|11||Patton Kizzire-Brian Harman||62||72||-10|
|12||Lexi Thompson-Sean O’Hair||64||74||-6|