Marino in Contention…Again, Along With Levin
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Steve Marino has already played in the final group twice — at the Sony Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am — on Sunday in 2011, but he’s yet to hoist a trophy. He’s certainly put himself in position enough times, and this week at Bay Hill, he’s done it again, posting a five-under 67 to move up the leaderboard with a 36-hole total of six-under, tied for fourth.

After rolling in a four-footer for birdie on No. 15, Marino knocked the reachable par-5 No. 16 in two, but three-putted for par. On the following hole, a par-3, he pulled his tee shot and bounced it off the grandstands. He took a free drop, but that still left him with a very tough pitch from the left rough over a bunker and not much green to work with. Hitting a soft, high lob, he had a 13-footer left for par, which was probably just about as close as he could get it. He drained it.

“Obviously, I’ve dealt with a couple of disappointments,” said Marino in his post-round presser. “I’ve been right in there probably four or five tournaments and haven’t been able to pull it off. But you know, every single one of these experiences, I felt like I’ve played pretty well. It’s just something was missing to kind of get me over the top; a good break here or a putt to drop in there.”

Just 10 minutes earlier in the scoring area, Marino’s caddie, GW Cable, echoed the same sentiment.

“I told him everything he’s done is awesome,” said GW. “Just stay patient and you keep putting yourself in position, it’s going to happen for you. You gotta get some breaks at some point.”

You could almost say the same thing about his good friend Spencer Levin, whom he was paired with for the first two rounds. Marino spoke highly about Levin, who managed to shoot six-under 66 on Thursday in extremely difficult conditions.

“His putting is just unbelievable,” said Marino. “Yesterday, that round of golf was — I don’t know if they ever do like a top-ten rounds of the year, but that one should be in there for sure. He made almost everything he looked at and just played awesome.

“Today on the front nine, he made a bunch of long putts for birdies and saved some putts for par. He missed a couple on the back, but I mean, overall, his putting was very, very impressive. I’ve never really seen anyone putt like that for two days…I was in awe, but at the same time, I was just trying to keep it together and make pars, and he’s out there making birdies, and I’m thinking, my God, like what is this guy doing out here.”

That’s a pretty accurate description.

Levin doesn’t have as good a resume as Marino, but he’s been in the mix quite a lot this year, collecting five top-25s so far, including a runner-up finish (lost in a playoff to Johnson Wagner at the Mayakoba Golf Classic). At the halfway mark at Bay Hill, he’s tied for second and one back of Martin Laird going into the weekend.

After finishing up on Friday, Levin headed to the range to straighten out his driver. Meanwhile, Marino went to the practice green to work on his stroke.

“It just makes it more exciting (when I’m in contention) and I’m real excited about this weekend, especially with Spencer right up there,” said Marino. I’m hoping we get paired together again tomorrow.”

They just missed. Levin and KJ Choi are tied, but since Levin finished first, he’ll play with Laird, while Marino will tee off with Choi. There’s always Sunday, and hopefully the separation anxiety won’t get in the way of their games tomorrow!