Winnipeg, MB – Kalamazoo, Michigan’s Erik Barnes extended his lead at The Players Cup on Friday, carding a 1-under 70 at Pine Ridge Golf Club to take a two stroke lead heading into the weekend.
After a 63 on Thursday, Barnes battled windy conditions and a few nerves in the second round to grind out an under-par round and get two shots clear of a group of four players, including Sarnia, Ontario’s Matt Hill, Yakima, Washington’s Brock Mackenzie, Little Rock, Arkansas’ Drew Stoltz and Fargo, North Dakota’s Josh Persons.
“I didn’t handle it so well on the front side,” said Barnes of starting the day with the lead. The 26-year old started with two bogeys on his front nine, but rebounded with three birdies coming in to reach 9-under. “I needed to be a little tougher mentally. I let a couple shots go and got frustrated. I tried to let go and pretend like it didn’t matter on the back side and try to act like I didn’t care what I was shooting. I just tried to free myself up, which I did.”
Barnes will be in a familiar position heading into the weekend. He held a share of the 36-hole lead with England’s Kelvin Day last week at the SIGA Dakota Dunes Open presented by SaskTel. The Austin Peay State graduate said he was hoping to put the experience to use on Saturday in Winnipeg.
“As long as I can handle it a little bit better than I did last Saturday,” said Barnes, whose third round 73 in Saskatoon took him out of contention. “I was a little bit nervous and made some nervous golf swings early in the round. I got off on the wrong foot, and I had I not done that I might have had a better chance of winning that golf tournament.”
Barnes admitted that he will feel pressure on the weekend as the field attempts to chase him down, but that he was ready to accept the challenge of being the frontrunner.
“We all know what’s a stake and we all want it really badly, otherwise we wouldn’t be playing,” said Barnes. “The guy that’s going to get it done is the guy who deals with it the best, and hopefully that will be me.”
Hill, who finished tied for eighth here in 2012 when he won the Order of Merit on PGA TOUR Canada, carded a 3-under 68 to join a group tied for second heading into the weekend.
“I think I hit it a little bit better today but played pretty similar. I just kind of stuck to my game plan. I’m just going to try to keep doing what I’m doing,” Hill said.
PERSONS, MADIGAN TAKE DIFFERENT APPROACHES IN RACE FOR MONTREAL
At third and fourth, respectively, on the Order of Merit and just $2,048 apart in earnings, Josh Persons and Tim Madigan are in the thick of the hunt to finish in the top three on the Order of Merit through next week’s Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel and earn a spot in the RBC Canadian Open at Royal Montreal Golf Club.
With Persons at 7-under heading into the weekend and Madigan at 6-under, they’re also both in the hunt this week at The Players Cup, but are taking differing approaches to the race this weekend.
“I look at it all the time,” said Madigan of the Order of Merit. “I’m a different bird. I definitely watch leaderboards and see what I have to do to get into position. I definitely know that I am behind Persons and Mr. [Matt] Harmon, and no matter what I have to play good golf to pass them.”
Persons, meanwhile, said that he was focusing on the task and hand and hoping to let a good result in Winnipeg take care of the thinking for him.
“If you play well, you get where you want to be,” said Persons. “I’m thinking about how I want to get the ball in front of me. If you do that, the top three or the top five will take care of itself.”
LEE LOOKING TO PEAK AT THE RIGHT TIME AHEAD OF RBC CANADIAN OPEN
With a spot in the RBC Canadian Open already secured thanks to a win in regional qualifying, Montreal’s Beon-Yeong Lee is looking to get one last week of competitive experience in before teeing it up in front of friends and family at Royal Montreal Golf Club in two weeks.
Lee, who was born in South Korea but has lived in Montreal for eight years, fired a 5-under 66 on Thursday to sit tied for 10th. He’ll take next week off in preparation for the national open, and is hoping to make the most of this week in Winnipeg as preparation.
“My game is really good. I’m really confident and the course. I’ve played it a lot of times, so I’m just looking forward to it,” said the 25-year old, who played the RBC Canadian Open at St. George’s Golf and Country Club in 2010, shooting 78-65 to barely miss the cut. Lee said the experience of one PGA TOUR event under his belt will come in handy as he plays in his hometown.
“I know how it’s going to be with the atmosphere and everything,” said Lee. “This time, I think I’m more ready than I was four years ago. Just tee it up and hit it hard, right?”
Weather: 26 degrees (28 degrees with Humidex). Sunny. Winds 34 km/h.
Barnes is playing this week after finishing in the top-20 last week in Saskatoon, where he tied for fourth. He failed to retain status on PGA TOUR Canada after finishing outside the top 60 on the 2013 Order of Merit, but was able to join as a member and get access to events thanks to his solid performance on the NEC Series – PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, where he is currently 19th on the Order of Merit.
The 36-hole cut came at 2-over par, with 69 players at T-58 or better.
The 2-over cut was the first over-par cut of the season, and the highest of the PGA TOUR Canada era.
Five players have made the cut in every event this season: Joel Dahmen, Josh Persons, Sean Shahi, Tim Madigan and Greg Eason.
Round three tee times will begin at 7:20 AM, with Erik Barnes and Brock Mackenzie playing in the final group at 1:00 PM.
First Round Leaderboard
1. Erik Barnes 70 (-9)
T-2. Matt Hill 68 (-7)
T-2. Josh Persons 68 (-7)
T-2. Drew Stoltz 69 (-7)
T-2. Brock Mackenzie 70 (-7)
Source: PGA TOUR