The US’ big-hitting Robert Garrigus, with his approach play in top order, rocketed into a one-shot lead after producing a blistering finish to the second round of the Tournament of Champions on Friday.
The 33-year-old holed out with a wedge from 66 yards to eagle the par-four 16th before unleashing two booming drives to set up birdies at the 17th and 18th for a 10-under-par 63.
After starting another surprisingly calm day at the picturesque Kapalua Resort three strokes off the pace, Garrigus ended it one ahead of the chasing pack at 14-under 132.
“It feels great,” Garrigus told reporters after taking control of the PGA Tour’s elite season-opening event, which brings together the winners from the previous year. “Leading a tournament after two days really doesn’t mean much, but it would be nice if I could finish it off this weekend.”
Swede Carl Pettersson, co-leader with the US’ Jonathan Byrd overnight, birdied the last for a 67 to lie second with Byrd a further stroke back after a 68.
Former Kapalua winners Ernie Els (64) and Jim Furyk (68) were tied for fourth at 10-under, alongside Italy’s Francesco Molinari (67) and the US’ Steve Stricker (67).
Els, who triumphed here in 2003 with a tournament record of 31-under 261, made the first significant move of the day, piling up nine birdies in a flawless display to set the clubhouse lead.
“I needed something like that to get me closer to the leaders,” the smooth-swinging South African said after regaining his putting touch in the second round.
However, Garrigus powered his way to the top of the leaderboard as cool, overcast conditions gave way to bright sunshine in the late afternoon.
His eagle at the 16th, where his ball spun back 15 feet before disappearing into the cup, put him one shot clear of Pettersson and he maintained control with his birdie-birdie finish.
“I worked very hard at my wedge game and today I had four wedges that actually hit the hole. It was a lot of fun. I love Maui. It feels great to be in this position,” said Garrigus, who booked his place in the elite field at Kapalua with his maiden PGA Tour victory at the season-ending Disney Classic last year.
Seven players in the elite field of 32 held at least a share of the lead on Friday and, with conditions calm and Kapalua’s fairways the widest on the PGA Tour, birdies were plentiful.
Meanwhile, Camilo Villegas’ 29th birthday celebrations turned sour when he was disqualified from the tournament for a rules violation spotted by a television viewer.
The Colombian had carded a one-under-par 72 in Thursday’s opening round, but he unwittingly violated Rule 23-1 at the par-five 15th where he twice chipped up to the green only to watch as his ball rolled back to him.
On the second occasion, he -illegally flicked away a loose divot of grass as the ball was trickling back down the slope.
Rule 23-1 states: “When a ball is in motion, a loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball must not be removed.”
Villegas should have incurred a two-shot penalty for his infraction. Instead, he completed his round and was therefore disqualified from the PGA Tour’s season-opening event for signing an incorrect scorecard.
“I went to him before I made any formal announcement and he said he’d like to see it just to learn,” said Slugger White, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competition. “I told him what happened. He could not have been bigger. Obviously he wasn’t trying to do anything [illegal]. He just didn’t know.”
After viewing the tape with White, Villegas agreed his infraction was clear-cut.
“While it is obviously a disappointing way to start the season, the rules are the rules,” the Colombian said. “When something like this happens, it’s important to me that you’re respectful of the game and the people involved.”
Villegas had booked his place in the field with a victory at last year’s Honda Classic.
REUTERS, EAST LONDON, SOUTH AFRICA
World No. 14 Retief Goosen and first-round leader Brandon Pieters had a day to forget at the Africa Open on Friday.
While Goosen missed the cut by two shots and fellow South African Pieters ballooned to a second-round 77, Austrian Markus Brier, Briton Miles Tunnicliff and South African Branden Grace were flying high at the top of the leaderboard.
Goosen, who has struggled with a minor injury this week, added a 73 to his opening 75 on a windy day at the East London Golf Club.
Pieters made a dreadful start to his round, following a quadruple bogey nine at the first with a double-bogey seven at the third and he ended up with a total 11 strokes worse than his opening 66.
Brier picked up eight birdies and one eagle in a seven-under 66 to join Grace (69) and Tunnicliff (69) in a share of the lead.
Tunnicliff, twice a winner on the European Tour, began with a spectacular run of five straight birdies before the wind picked up later in the day.
“The back nine was extremely tough and the wind was getting up more on every hole,” he told reporters. “I was just trying to survive out there at the end and keep the ball in play.”
“I played well here last year and I get good vibes from this course,” Tunnicliff added.
British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (67) was lurking menacingly on 137 with fellow South African Jaco Van Zyl (70) and Briton Ross McGowan (69).
Defending champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa returned a 70 for 139. Fine weather on Friday helped the tournament get back on schedule after the first round had been curtailed by bad light.
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