Endicott, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Is Bart Bryant the Champions Tour’s 1000th winner? He certainly looks like it after carding a tournament-record-tying 10-under 62 that included birdies on six of his first seven holes. Bryant’s 10-foot birdie putt to close at the 18th allowed him to equal R.W. Eaks’ second-round score in 2007 as the lowest in Dick’s Sporting Goods Open history and his 36-hole total of 16-under 128 eclipsed Fred Funk’s two-round total of 15-under in 2009 as the best in tournament history. Bryant’s four-stroke lead over Corey Pavin after two rounds is the largest 36-hole margin in Dick’s annals. Duffy Waldorf, a collegiate teammate of Pavin’s at UCLA, stands alone in third place, five strokes back of Bryant.
A win tomorrow would make Bryant the 1000th champion in the history of the Champions Tour and he would be the 190th different player to win a tournament. Tomorrow will be the first time he’s taken a lead into Sunday on the Champions Tour.
Bryant tied the 18-hole tournament record today at En Joie, originally set in Round 2 of the 2007 event by R.W. Eaks.
He’s bidding for his first career victory on the Champions Tour in his 14th start on the circuit. Best finish to date on the Champions Tour among four top 10s is T4 at the recent 3M Championship. Also T7 at the Greater Gwinnett Championship and Principal Charity Classic. Also made two appearances on the PGA TOUR this year – T41 Sony Open, MC Humana Challenge.
Searching for his first TOUR victory since winning the 2005 TOUR Championship and a win in Endicott would end a drought of 7 years, 9 months, 11 days. Also won the 2005 Memorial as well as the 2004 Valero Texas Open, shooting 60 in the third round.
Victory tomorrow would make he and older brother Brad the third set of brothers to claim Champions Tour events – Dave (6)/Mike Hill (18), Lanny (1)/Bobby Wadkins (4).
Bryant can become the fifth player in event history to make this event his first win and third consecutive – 2007/R.W. Eaks, 2009/Lonnie Nielsen, 2011, 2011/John Huston, 2012/Willie Wood.
Bryant could also become fourth rookie to win on the Champions Tour this year, joining Rocco Mediate (Allianz Championship), Esteban Toledo (Insperity Championship) and Kohki Idoki (Senior PGA Championship) and the 15th different winner overall.
Bryant is the only player in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open field without a bogey through the first 36 holes and he’s only missed two greens in regulation. Bryant has also only had 55 total putts through the first two rounds and he’s hit 10/14 fairways each day.
Scott Hoch rebounded from an opening-round 73 with a bogey-free 9-under 63 today that included birdies on each of the last four holes. Hoch’s round was his career-low score on the Champions Tour, eclipsing the 64 he shot earlier this year at the Toshiba Classic. The 63 moved Hoch up 44 places into a T9, easily the biggest move by a player in the field on Saturday. This year was Hoch’s first appearance in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open since 2007 (T17). He’s been plagued by left wrist issues off and on for almost six years and also just recently lost his father, Art, at the age of 89.
Rick Fehr’s five straight birdies (Nos. 4-8) on the front nine matched the Dick’s Sporting Goods tournament record and was the seventh time it’s happened in event history. Prior to today, John Cook was the last to have five straight birdies at En-Joie Golf Course in 2012, Round 1.
In the previous six Dick’s Sporting Goods Opens, just two second-round leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win the tournament and that was R.W. Eaks (2007) and Eduardo Romero (2008). No winner of this event has ever come from further back than four strokes (2010/Loren Roberts) on Sunday or further back that the T8 position (Loren Roberts/2010).
Thus far in 2013, five of the previous 16 events have been won by Saturday leaders. The last time it happened was two weeks ago at the 3M Championship.
Players in the last group have gone on to win the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open four times – 2007/R.W. Eaks, 2008/Eduardo Romero, 2011/John Huston, 2012/Willie Wood.
Corey Pavin has finished among the top-3 in his last three events on the Champions Tour, including a T2 at the recent 3M Championship. Pavin’s 64 today was his seventh straight sub-70 score dating back to 69 on Saturday at the Senior British Open and he’s now a cumulative 34 under during this stretch.
With a second consecutive day of perfect scoring conditions, the field stroke average on Saturday was 69.725, the lowest for any round in the history of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open. The previous-low for any round in tournament history was 70.286 in Round 2 of the 2009 event. There were 36 scores in the 60s today and only five holes did not register an under-par average. Yesterday’s stroke average was 71.513. The par-4 15thhole again played as the most difficult (4.275 vs. 4.388). The par-3 14thhole had just three birdies (Bart Bryant, Don Pooley, John Inman). The par-5 12th hole (4.262) played as the easiest, yielding five eagles and 50 birdies among the 80-player field.
(Courtesy: Champions Tour)