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Published September 17, 2015
The wind blew the fortunes of Kevin Chappell all over Sea Island until he settled atop the leaderboard Friday in the McGladrey Classic.
Chappell ran into a rough patch in the middle of his second round and managed a 2-under 68 in cold, blustery conditions to take a one-shot lead over Jason Kokrak among those who finished the second round.
It was a turnaround from Thursday, when the Seaside course was a pushover in still, soft conditions.
Chappell, who was at 7-under 133, felt he played better in his round of 68 than when he opened with a 65. It was tough to pick the right line of the tee, choose the right club into the greens and even measure the speed of the greens because of the wind.
He reached 8 under with an eagle on the par-5 15th in which he said a gust helped to blow his putt into the hole. He gave it back with a double bogey on the par-3 third hole because of a tee shot that found a hazard some 30 yards short of the green that's typically not even in play.
"You hit some not-so-perfect shots and get some bad breaks with the wind gusting and you get exposed really quickly," Chappell said. "I think I was fortunate to come to that realization that there's some luck involved today and that maybe for a period of time I was one of the luckier guys out here. But that tough stretch in the middle of the round I wasn't so lucky, and the law of averages, it averaged out."
Kokrak had the low round of the day with a 65, including a birdie on the par-4 fifth hole that wraps around a marsh. With the wind helping, the big-hitting Kokrak took a short cut toward the green and came up just short, setting up a chip-and-putt for birdie.
That was two shots worse than how he played the hole in a pro-am round. With a similar wind, he smashed his driver over the marsh, onto the green and into the hole for an albatross ace. Too bad it was only practice.
"I think it will play into my favor to play a little bit windy," Kokrak said. "Maybe not quite as gusty and windy as it is today for the putting aspect, but 15 to 20 mph wind would be fine with me. I think it's an easier golf course for me to climb closer to the leaders with a little bit of wind as opposed to shooting 7-, 8-under par like the first round."
George McNeill finished off a 62 on Friday morning to complete the fog-delayed first round. McNeill started his back nine with five straight bogeys for a 76 and was five shots out of the lead.
Matt Kuchar, at No. 8 in the world the highest-ranked player at Sea Island this week, had another 68 and was three shots behind. Kuchar would seem to have an advantage playing the Seaside course because he lives here, except that he rarely plays in conditions like this. Kuchar is more likely to be found on his couch, and that's where he was headed after finishing the round.
"There will be no practicing, no hitting balls, no putting," Kuchar said. "It is straight back to the couch and enjoy watching guys have to play in these conditions."
The biggest turnaround was Brian Harman, who had reason to feel this was going to be a miserable day. Harman started his round by driving into a hazard and having to get up-and-down from a bunker to save bogey. He blew a bunker shot over the 13th green and made double bogey. He couldn't reach the 14th green and made bogey. And with the wind still whipping, he shot 30 on the front nine to save his day. Harman had a 68 and was two shots behind.
He closed his day with a birdie-birdie finish, chipping in from 40 yards short of the green.
"It was coming off the rails pretty quick there for a little while," Harman said. "But I knew if I settled in, it was going to be real tough for everybody today. And I knew I had at least a couple birdies. I certainly didn't expect to get all the way back to 2-under, and that chip-in on the last hole was pretty cool."
DIVOTS: Tournament host Davis Love III, who shared the 54-hole lead a year ago at Sea Island, went 75-74 and missed the cut. ... Will MacKenzie was 7 under in his first 13 holes and 11 over on his next 13 holes. He went 66-79 to miss the cut.