In the words of Steve Wheatcroft following his round, "It was a long day on the golf course."
Usually no one ever sighs when they say that but today was a different day. What started as a calm, surprisingly cool day to open the 2011 Wichita Open turned into... well, a long day on the golf course. Around 10:30 the horns sounded for lightning and 20 minutes later the North Course at Crestview Country Club turned into Crestview Pool (diving board optional). Rain saturated the course and standing water was everywhere, causing even more delays than the constant lightning that surrounded us.
Weather delays suck. There is no other way to put it. The only benefit to our weather delay was it gave us more time to gameplan for day one where the golfers were going to be when we needed to get video. And it allowed us to catch up on the US Open (did you know this was going on?) and the brownies one of the lovely volunteers prepared. So, not so bad for us but the golfers hated it. They were at the mercy of the storm and the PGA Meteorologists that travel to each tour stop. Sit and wait, walk around and wait, grab something to munch and wait some more. There was nothing else they could do. Whatever momentum they had on the course was zapped the instant the marshal fired his/her horn.
But there is a benefit to the delay. If you are out there sucking wind, this can let you regroup and start fresh, sometimes. Roger Tambellini was able to keep his momentum going after the storm. The first round leader in the clubhouse at 7-under par started morning and finished in the afternoon, able to counteract the terrible winds that followed the storm. A Southern Cal product, Tambellini birdied the par-5 18th to move to 7-under. He said following that he felt like things were starting to click again. He's been on the Big Tour before, finishing T4 last year at The Greenbriar Classic but he finished outside of the top-125 money leaders (the stat line you must be inside to retain full playing privileges on the PGA Tour) and thus back to the Nationwide Tour.
Alongwith Tambellini, back the golfers went to the course that now resembled a US Open style course. Windy, kind of hot with thick rough and, thus low scores. Anyone going off in th afternoon with dreams of sugarplumbs or shooting a low score was sadly mistaken. When the wind blows it turns Crestview into a beast. Long with narrow fairways. And it was tough scoring in the P.M. Matt Davidson did it, somehow, shooting 6-under and he isn't even done yet (darkness delay). But the next rounds will be tough, against great players, even on the Nationwide.
And there is no shame in that. Not when you are playing against guys who set the tour scoring record two weeks ago. Steve Wheatcroft won in Maryland at (wait for it...) 29-under par, missing out on a 59 in the second round, shooting 60 instead and lapping the field to victory. He is in the clubhouse at 3-under for the first round but he went out later than some of the better scores. Nevertheless, these guys can go low when they need to. Tied with money leader Matthew Goggin is fellow Australian Peter Lonard at 5-under par. Lonard sank a lengthy eagle putt on the 18th hole to get into the four-way-tie with B.J. Staten and Kevin Thompson for third. He has won a couple million dollars playing golf and, along with Woody Austin, having Lonard in this tournament gives it some prestige (heck, Goggin was in one of the final pairings at the 2009 British Open and finished T5). Lonard finished 11th at the 2001 US Open and has won 12 times worldwide. And he is a beast. Dude is a big man, with some big forearms.
Lonard has never played in Wichita before. But he didn't qualify for the US Open so he is here, looking for a paycheck. Having the US Open in the same week as the Wichita Open hasn't detracted from the field here, but it's beefed it up. If anyone qualified for the US Open, they will pick that other Wichita. Woody failed to qualify and that's why he is here, Goggin too and the same for Dustin Garza. Everyone wants to win a US Open but qualifying is hard. Really hard and they only take a certain amount of players. But the Nationwide will prepare them for that in the future.
How will Tambellini respond tomorrow; who's to say? He has played there three other times, making the weekend once finishing T19 in 2003. Wheatcroft finished T14 back in 2006, the only time he has played before and Matt Davidson finished last year with $20K check for a T4 finish. Who knows? David Duval shot two rounds of 70 and still won in 1993!
All of these guys could self destruct tomorrow and we will have an entirely new leaderboard. That's kind of the fun/tragic thing about golf: one day you have it, the next you don't. The game can leave you overnight, which puts any win on ANY tour into perspective and the win streaks by Tiger and Byron Nelson and the Grand Slam by Bobby Jones even further into perspective. Winning a golf tournament is hard (ask Harrison Frazar).
Will Tambellini be standing on top when Tuesday is done? Who knows. Good luck tomorrow, rain or shine (please shine!!).