Will Claxton, who fired 64 to share the first round lead with Daniel Summerhays, rolled in a seven-footer to save par on his final hole on Thursday, the 9th at PGA West’s Stadium course, and to maintain the outright lead at ten-under.
As he was waiting for his turn to putt, his swing coach Scott Hamilton, who has six students at PGA Tour Q-school finals, including Steven Bowditch (T15), Boo Weekley, Reid Edstrom, among others, mentioned Claxton didn’t have even an inkling he was leading through two rounds. Which is understandable considering there aren’t scoreboards on the golf course (there’s just one leaderboard — which is old school, handwritten — near the clubhouse), but Claxton wasn’t checking scores online, either.
Blustery conditions — wind blowing 20-30mph, with gusts of 40mph — wreaked havoc at PGA West in the second round of PGA Tour Q-school finals. The scoring average was nearly four strokes higher in the second round at the Nicklaus Tournament course and three strokes at the Stadium. Matt Jones and Harris English, who are tied for second through two rounds with four to play, were the only players to post bogey-free rounds (well, unless you count Brenden Pappas, who shot 86, and withdrew when he finished — he had 12 pars, four doubles and 2 triples).
When I spoke to Claxton, I was careful not to reveal where he stood (which was actually kind of tough). “So, you handled those tough conditions pretty well,” I remarked.
“I just had good control of my golf ball all day — both days,” said Claxton. “I’ve always hit the ball kind of low, so the wind definitely doesn’t bother me as much as others maybe. I’m definitely comfortable playing the ball down.”
Claxton spent extra time working on his putting before he teed off. He was more concerned with how the wind would impact his ball on the greens.
“I was a little worried about it, feeling weird on the greens and the wind blowing me over,” he said. “I widened my stance a little more and I putted the ball good again.”
In some ways, the windy, tough conditions were a positive for the event — it identifies the guys playing the best golf along with the strongest players in the field. Just look at the leaderboard.
It also certainly allowed for a lot of movement both directions on the leaderboard. English, who won the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational as an amateur in July on the Nationwide Tour, started the day T26 and surged to T2 after firing a five-under 67, the low round of the day, on the Nicklaus Tournament.
Canadian Adam Hadwin also improved his position, going from T61 to T15. Hadwin got off to a rough start, scrambling around the Nicklaus Tournament course just to save pars. He made two consecutive bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13 before he rallied to birdie four of the last five holes. His fine approach shot on the 14th turned things around for him.
“I just went bogey, bogey and then hit a 9‑iron to about three feet, just a good quality golf shot, finally hit the ball in the center of the club face and saw the ball flight I wanted to, and from then on I hit a lot of good shots coming in,” he said.
Hadwin admitted he struggled with judging the wind at times. On the 12th hole, he thought he hit a perfect shot, but his ball got caught in a gust and came up 25 yards short.
“You have to play for it, and if it stops then you go long or short, and if it doesn’t ‑‑ it can play with your mind, and it’s tough on the greens, as well,” he said. “That’s probably the toughest. I hit some putts today, and the wind just took it right off line. So it was a grind, and I pulled it out in the end.”
Others to make significant moves include Brendan Todd, Brad Fritsch, Tommy Biershenk, Josh Broadaway, Stuart Anderson, Gator Todd, Adam Long and Alex Coe.
Many went the opposite direction, as well, like Sang-Moon Bae, Shaun Micheel and Bio Kim, among others. It’s still very early in the tournament with four rounds, 72 holes, to play — for those near the bottom, going super low Friday would put them right back in it.
Claxton confirmed he hadn’t seen a leaderboard and didn’t intend to check the scores. Which is actually a smart decision, especially early in the week.
“I just feel like it’s a six-round tournament and all I can do is go out there and shoot the best score I can,” he explained. “Some days that’s 75 and some days that’s 65 and that’s all I want to judge myself on. Did I get the most out of my round and not worry what the rest of the field is doing.”