Raleigh's Hadley out front at Rex Open

calexander@newsobserver.comJune 21, 2013 

— Chesson Hadley of Raleigh, fully embracing his role as a hometown favorite, has the lead in the Rex Hospital Open.

But while enjoying the view out front, Hadley also is wise enough to know he has to keep an eye on the guys behind him.

Hadley followed up his opening 63 with a second-round 69 Friday, moving to 10-under 132 in the Web.com Tour event. The tour rookie continued to play strong, steady golf, not getting greedy or making impatient mistakes at TPC Wakefield Plantation.

But a stroke behind is Jason Gore, who nearly quit pro golf last year but has rekindled his enthusiasm for the game. There’s Danny Lee of South Korea and Edward Loar, who played last week in the U.S. Open and won on the Web.com Tour this year at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open.

Loar had a 6-under 65, matching the low score of the day, and Lee a 66. Had Lee, a former Web.com Tour winner, not three-putted from 55 feet and bogeyed the par-5 ninth – his final hole of the round – he would have shared the 36-hole lead with Hadley.

“I made 14 pars,” Hadley said. “Pars aren’t necessarily a lot of fun but par’s a good score when the pins are tucked like they were today.”

Andrew Putnam, who threw out a 62 in the opening round to tie the tournament course record, needed birdies on his final two holes for a 72. He’s two shots behind Hadley at 134 along with Scott Dunlap, another 65-shooter.

“That’s the way golf is,” Putnam said of his turnaround. “My position is still good.”

Gore, 39, has seven career wins on the Web.com Tour and earned instant fame – and then sympathy – for his play in the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. He’s also enjoying himself on the course again.

A year ago, Gore didn’t like where his game was at. He’d be at tournaments and didn’t like where he was at – namely, not at home with his wife and kids.

“I felt like I was riding East looking for the sunset,” Gore said of his constant frustration.

Gore won about $78,000 on the Web.com Tour last year, with one top-10 finish. Eight PGA Tour appearances resulted in six missed cuts in 2012.

Having played college golf at Pepperdine, helping the Waves win the 1997 NCAA championship, Gore applied for the vacant head-coaching job at the school last year.

“I just was miserable,” he said of tour life. “It wasn’t worth missing my kids’ lives for.”

Gore didn’t get the job. Which, in retrospect, may have been the best thing for him.

“I wasn’t angry,” he said. “It was like somebody’s telling me I need to go play golf.”

Gore changed golf instructors and started working with Mac O’Grady, something of a golf savant. He won’t say what changes he made, but he is seeing results from the work.

“There’s been a lot of good progress made,” he said. “I’m excited to come to the golf course every day, good, bad or ugly.”

Gore doesn’t have a top-10 finish but is 39th tour on the money list with $62,632. His best finish: a tie for 11th in the Mid-Atlantic Championship early this month.

“I like the opportunity that I’m given right now, rather than being the former Tour winner who doesn’t think he should be here, which I kind of fell into,” Gore said. “It’s a gateway back to where I want to be.”

Many remember Gore from those June days in the 2005 Open on Pinehurst No. 2. Gore was in the final twosome on Sunday with Retief Goosen, only to shoot 84 as Goosen also stumbled and Michael Campbell won.

To Gore, that seems eons ago. He’s hoping to play well enough to get back to Pinehurst next year, for the 2014 U.S. Open on No. 2.

Among those missing the cut Friday was Carter Jenkins, who won the Rex Hospital Open Junior Invitational to gain a spot in the field. Jenkins, 17, had a second-round 76 to close at 146.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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