Mackenzie Hughes, J.J. Spaun share lead at The Players Cup

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( Winnipeg, Man.) – Dundas, Ontario’s Mackenzie Hughes and Los Angeles, California’s J.J. Spaun reached 9-under through 36 holes on Friday at Pine Ridge Golf Club to share the 36-hole lead at The Players Cup, the fifth event on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada’s 2015 schedule.

Hughes, the 2013 Mackenzie Tour Order of Merit winner, carded a 6-under 65 to match the earlier clubhouse lead set by Spaun (64), who currently sits no. 5 on the Order of Merit and in position to earn status on the Web.com Tour for 2016. Hughes and Spaun sat two shots clear of Order of Merit leader Drew Weaver of Atlanta, along with Kalmar, Sweden’s Robert Karlsson and Rockville, Maryland’s Danny Balin through 36 holes.

“It was a really good day from start to finish,” said Hughes, who finished tied for third here in 2013 on the way to his Order of Merit victory. “I feel pretty comfortable around here. I like the way the course sets up and the challenges it presents. You play a solid steady round and you’re going to be moving up, so I like that about this place and I’m looking to it this weekend.”

The 24-year old member of Golf Canada’s Young Pro Squad was one of just three players without a bogey on Friday, illustrating a stress-free round that was his lowest of the year so far on the Mackenzie Tour.

“I’m sure most guys hate bogeys, but I especially hate bogeys, so when you do that and get in your last few holes, it’s on your mind. I try not to think about it too much. I had a lot of good looks today and didn’t have too many stressful pars, so that was nice,” said Hughes.

Earlier, Spaun, who lost to Michael Letzig in a playoff at last week’s SIGA Dakota Dunes Open presented by SaskTel, posted the best round of the week with a 7-under 64 to set the pace.

“I kept the ball in front of me and made some putts and didn’t make very many mistakes, so it was a good day,” said Spaun, who made six birdies, an eagle and a bogey. “You really have to take advantage of the gettable par-5s and the easy par-4s, and fortunately I did that today and was able to capitalize on it.”

Spaun has improved with each finish on the Mackenzie Tour this season, lining up results of T16-T10-T8-T2 heading into this week in Winnipeg. The 24-year old former NCAA All-American at San Diego State said he’s seen his game improve in 2015 and is becoming more comfortable each week on Tour.

“I’ve been playing good for the past five months, but I just haven’t been playing in anything where it mattered. I knew my game was there so I think for me it’s just all about believing it and having no fear,” said Spaun.

NUMBERS YOU NEED TO KNOW

29: Chris Hemmerich’s back nine (6-under), giving him a 3-under 68.

2: Wes Homan’s birdies on the 9th hole this week, which has given up just eight to the entire field through two rounds.  

1: The number of 36-hole leaders or co-leaders to go on to win this season.

QUOTABLES:

“It played easier today. I was actually happy with 1-under yesterday. The greens were way firmer, and the wind was at least 5-10 miles per hour faster, and the gusts were even harder than that.” – Sweden’s Robert Karlsson on the differences between Thursday’s windy conditions and his round on Friday. Pine Ridge played 1.454 shots easier on Friday thanThursday.

“It’s mostly confidence. I’ve been struggling for two years a little, but I put a lot of work into my golf swing this winter, so it was nice so see things come together. We play in a lot of wind down in South America so I feel like I’ve played in a lot of conditions and I don’t think the win bothered me as much.” – Danny Balin, who broke through for a PGA TOUR Latinoamérica win at the Guatemala Stella Artois Open earlier this year.

“Along with all the other courses that we play on the Tour, this is my third summer up here, and you just kind of know where not to hit it and what to expect. If you’ve never played here or don’t know what to expect, it’s really tricky and the guys that have played here before have the upper hand for sure.” – Third-year Mackenzie Tour member J.J. Spaun on the value of experience at Pine Ridge Golf Club.

“I’ve had some tournaments where I play three good rounds and one mediocre round. I played a bad third round in Vancouver where I was in contention, but I feel like this year I’m playing better than I did two years ago yet the results haven’t quite showed that.” – 2013 Order of Merit winner Mackenzie Hughes on the progress of his game.

Notes:

  • Weather: 32 degrees (37 degrees with Humidex). Sunny. Winds 16 km/h.
  • Edward Figueroa recorded the second hole-in-one of the 2015 season, recording an ace on the par-3 14th.
  • 62 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at even par.
  • Players who have made all five cuts on the Mackenzie Tour this season: Drew Weaver, Sam Ryder, J.J. Spaun, Mackenzie Hughes, Clark Klaasen.
  • Chris Hemmerich’s 29 ties Josh Stone and Adam Svensson for the lowest 9-hole score on the Mackenzie Tour this year.
  • Order of Merit no. 2 Albin Choi missed the cut for the first time this season. 
  • Click here for agate scores. 
  • Click here for online scores. 

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