The Rex Hospital Open could be shaping up as a “big break” kind of tournament, so to speak.
Or for Kyle Thompson, a big comeback.
Thompson, who won the Rex in 2007 and 2011, moved into the lead Friday after the second round at TPC Wakefield Plantation. With a 3-under-par 68, the former South Carolina golfer was at 11-under 131 and had a one-shot lead over Richy Werenski, Darron Stiles, Drew Scott and Steve Allan of Australia in the Web.com Tour event.
“I’m like the Olympics,” Thompson said, smiling. “I show up every four years.”
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Seamus Power, seeking his first Web.com Tour win, showed up big Thursday with a course-record 61 but cooled off Friday to a 1-over 72. Allan had the day’s best round with an 8-under 63 while Werenski and Scott made moves with 65s and Stiles, who lives in Pinehurst, finished with a 66.
Former N.C. State golfer Garth Mulroy had a 68 and in a logjam of nine players tied at 9-under 133.
The first 36 holes at Wakefield have brought some interesting names popping up among the contenders.
There’s Werenski, 23, a former Georgia Tech golfer who recently won the Golf Channel’s “Big Break The Palm Beaches.”
There’s Mulroy, who once won the Big Stakes Match Play Championship in Nevada, with a $3 million payoff.
Bobby Wyatt also has his claim to golf fame. He won the 2010 Alabama boys state junior championship by shooting a 57.
Stiles, 41, has five career victories on the Web.com Tour. But Werenski, Power, Wyatt and others are 20-somethings looking for that one breakthrough week when the ball-striking is solid and the putts fall.
Why so many this week at Wakefield?
“That’s a big part of the intrigue on this tour, that a lot of guys can get opportunities, whether through a sponsor’s exemption or Monday qualifier, and then play well,” said Wyatt, who was in the group at 133.
Finish in the top 25 and a player qualifies for the next tour event, with the chance to build some momentum and make some money.
“That inspires people to come out and play well and I think that’s what you’re seeing this week,” Wyatt said.
Wyatt has played in one PGA Tour event this year but is making his first Web.com Tour appearance on a player exemption given by the tour’s title sponsor. A former All-American at Alabama, he has found pro golf to be a slow go and has spent much of this year on the mini-tours.
“I’ve just been trying to stay alive,” said Wyatt, who had a 66 Friday on a sunny, muggy day when low scores again were the norm at Wakefield.
Former East Carolina golfer Harold Varner III, who tied for second in the 2014 Rex, had a 66 for a 136 total. Brad Fritsch, who played at Campbell, birdied five of the last six holes for a 68 to finish at 137.
Former Duke golfer Wes Roach, third on the tour money list, flirted with the 36-hole cut but just made it at 139 after a 70.
Thompson had four birdies and a bogey Friday on a Wakefield course he knows so well. At 36, he said he’s approaching a career crossroads – continue to shoot for a return to the PGA Tour or leave pro golf and take a job to support his family.
Thompson, from Greenville, S.C., is playing only his second Web.com event of the year and has not earned a dollar. He has conditional status on the tour, his options narrowing.
“If I had missed the cut here, I’m looking at not getting any more starts the rest of the year,” he said. “But with a solid weekend, I can start getting back here more often and try to beat these young guys. I need to get it going.”