SANDY, Utah—Figuring he had a good chance of sitting atop the leaderboard at the halfway mark of the Utah Championship, Andres Gonzales (pictured by Getty Images) said, “It’s always good to be in the lead. If you have a lead, you’re playing well.”
He’s right about that. Gonzales followed his 9-under 62 with a solid 67 Friday at Willow Creek Country Club to take a two-shot advantage over Steve Wheatcroft and Travis Bertoni into the weekend Five others are three strokes back.
While the birdies didn’t come as frequently in Gonzales’ second round, he still took advantage of the course’s five par-5s, making an eagle, three birdies and a par on those holes.
“The par-5s are really gettable,” said the Olympia, Wash., resident, who, along with his wife, is staying with family friends at a home on Willow Creek’s third fairway. “With six par-3s and getting the ball in the fairway off the par-5s, I can really attack a lot of holes.”
With little wind, a lot of players were attacking the course Friday, Nobody did it better than Adam Crawford. The Australian recorded nine birdies, an eagle and one bogey on his way to a 10-under 61, 10 shots better than his opening-round score. He’s tied for fourth. Bertoni also moved into contention on the strength of an 8-under 63.
Wheatcroft went out early and took advantage of the calm conditions, shooting a 5-under 66 to go with his opening 65. Wheatcroft’s start here is providing him some solace in what he admits has been something of a forgettable year. He can even be harsher in assessing his season. “Worst I’ve ever had in my life, an absolute train wreck,” the Jacksonville, Fla., resident said following his round. “It’s usually three or four swings a round, and I’ll make double (bogeys) with them, and I miss a couple of putts here and there.”
He didn’t miss many in his second round. “All in all, I’m pretty pleased at the end of the day,” he added.
Coming into this week, Wheatcroft had missed four consecutive cuts and five of his last six on the Web.com Tour. About his play at last week’s Nova Scotia Open, he sarcastically said, “I beat one player” after rounds of 73-79 left him ahead of, yes, one player.
Wheatcroft is no stranger to success at Willow Creek. He tied for third in 2009 and tied for sixth in 2011. “I’ve played here enough, and I’ve played in Boise, where there is altitude.” He was also pleased to make a par-saving putt on the 18th hole. A year ago, he needed to make a putt on No. 18 to make the cut and play on the weekend. He missed. “Today, it was the same putt I had last year. I remembered it,” Wheatcroft added. “I thought it went farther left than it did last year. So I played it a little different today, and it curled right in.”
Gonzales also feels comfortable at the course even though he’s only played in the Utah Championship one other time. He tied for ninth in 2012 but was in contention throughout until he fell back on the final day.
With 36 holes to play, Gonzales, 28th on the money list, is happy with his position and comfortable at a course he seems to enjoy. “It feels closer to home, the grass is very similar to where I play back home. It just feels more like a home trip,” Gonzales said of the Utah Championship and Willow Creek. “Now it’s just a matter of sticking to the gameplan, which is pounding fairways, pounding some greens and making some putts.”
The cut came at 5-under 137.
This is Steve Wheatcroft’s fifth Utah Championship, dating to his first appearance, in 2009. Through Friday’s second round, he has played 14 rounds at Willow Creek Country Club and only has one over-par round. He shot a 4-over 75 in the first round in 2010. His 65-66 start this week betters his 67-65 start in 2009, when he tied for third.
The par-3 18th hole was the most difficult in the second round. The hole’s stroke average was 3.103. Of the leaders in the top five through 36 holes, only Jose Toledo managed to birdie the hole. Tony Finau bogeyed and the rest of the top five made par.
Defending champion Steven Alker and 2011 Utah Championship winner J.J. Killeen, the only past champions in the field, both missed the cut. Alker fired a 2-over 144, while Killeen finished at 4-under 138, missing the cut by one shot.
Hugo Leon withdrew from the tournament prior to his second round. Leon, a native of Santiago, Chile, is 86th on the money list in 13 tournaments this season.
Steve Wheatcroft is the only player in the field through 36 holes without a bogey. He’s made 11 birdies and 25 pars.
Bogey-free rounds (28)
First Round (13): Travis Bertoni, Gavin Coles, Derek Fathauer, Andres Gonzales, Jason Gore, Tom Hoge, Sung Kang, Skip Kendall, Justin Lower, Paul Peterson, Martin Piller, Nick Rousey, Steve Wheatcroft
Second Round (15): Blayne Barber, Ryan Blaum, Cam Burke, Max Homa, Mark Hubbard,Kevin Kim, Whee Kim, Colt Knost, Kevin Lucas, Bill Lunde, Alexandre Rocha, Steve Saunders, Vaughn Taylor, Peter Tomasulo, Steve Wheatcroft
Source: PGA TOUR