Fortinet Championship: A little local flavor on top

Maverick McNealy takes the lead with a eight under par 64 lead and is on top of the leaderboard with a -12 at the Silverado Resort Fortinet Championship in Napa (file photo birdiesforeducation.com)

FORTINET CHAMPIONSHIP: A little local flavor on top

By Jeremy Harness

This tournament has been known for guys going low throughout the weekend, and for the leaderboard to change rapidly at a moment’s notice.

Friday’s second round did not disappoint, as several players took advantage of the calm conditions at Silverado Resort & Spa, and the birdies continued to roll in without ceasing. And yes, there were a band new set of leaders atop the Fortinet Championship.

Maverick McNealy, a Stanford grad who is seeking his first professional victory and whose best finish is second in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this year, shot up to the top of the leaderboard with an eight-under round of 64 on Friday.

Starting on the 10th hole, he got off to a very nice start to his round, birdieing his first two holes and then adding three more birdies on his front nine. He hit a major snag on his back nine by bogeying the first three holes there but quickly rallied with four birdies in a row and capped things off with an eagle at the par-5 ninth.

“It’s great, but there’s a lot of great players on this leaderboard and every shot’s going to matter,” McNealy said. “I just keep telling myself every putt you make now is one less you have to make later and you have to keep the pedal down. My goal tomorrow’s to get out there and give myself a birdie look on the first hole. I’m just going to have to keep doing that. Yeah, it’s great to be at the top of the leaderboard now, but it means a heck of a lot more to be at the top at the end of 72 holes.”

If you ask any good player the easiest way to shave strokes off your game, that person will most likely tell you to work on your putting. You want proof? Take a look at McNealy’s second round.

He drove the ball less accurately off the tee – he hit only six fairways Friday, compared to eight on Thursday – and didn’t hit it as far as he did in the first round, and he hit fewer greens in regulation (13 as opposed to 15) as well.

However, he made considerably more putts on Friday than was the case the day before, resulting in four more birdies and four fewer strokes. He is now second in the field in putts-per-green-in-regulation with 1.536.

While many were going low,first-round leader Chez Reavie went the opposite direction, carding a three-over round of 75. He was even-par after nine, but this time, he did not get hot. Instead, he went four-over in holes 11 through 13, including a double at the par-3 11th. He made back-to-back birdies at the 14th and 15th, but the damage was done.

He did not make nearly as many putts as he did in the first round. In fact, he lost more than a full stroke to the field in putting, in addition to being at a severe disadvantage off the tee and got up and down only 33 percent of the time on Friday, as opposed to 80 percent the day before.

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