Showing little fear of sand and little regard for his better-known competitors, Steve Lowery carded seven birdies in a bogey-free round Friday to take the lead at the halfway point of the International.
Lowery, whose best finish in seven seasons on the PGA Tour was a second at San Diego earlier this year, earned 14 points and had a two-round total of 21 points under the modified Stableford system."It was one of the best rounds I've played all year," said Lowery, 33.
Lowery didn't have a "5" on his card, birdieing all four of the par-5s. On three of them, he hit his second shot into sand bordering the green and got up-and-down for birdie.
"I wouldn't say sand play is the strength of my game," Lowery said, "but it was good today. I was fortunate that on all of those bunker shots, I had room to land the ball.
"Making seven birdies, obviously I was putting well, and I drove the ball really well, too."
Equaling Lowery's plus-14 as the day's best score was Dave Stockton Jr., who was at plus-20 along with Mike Reid. Keith Clearwater had 19 points, Tom Lehman 17 and Tom Kite 16.
Hale Irwin, who holed out a pitching wedge at the par-4 15th for an eagle worth 5 points, was in a group at 15.
First-round leader Bruce Lietzke, who began the day with 16 points, was at 14.
Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal vaulted into contention with an eagle and two birdies - worth 9 points - in a span of four holes to finish at plus-13 along with 1986 International champion Ken Green.
U.S. Open winner Ernie Els had 7 points for a plus-12 total.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson, rallying from zero points Thursday, had 11 on Friday. Tom Watson and Fred Couples also were in contention with 9 and 8, respectively.
Among those missing the cut were John Daly and 1987 International winner John Cook.
Under the scoring system, a player receives 8 points for a double eagle, 5 for eagle, 2 for birdie, zero for par, minus-1 for bogey and minus-3 for double bogey or worse.
Points are cumulative over all four rounds, with the 144-player field being reduced to 72 for the third round and to 24 for the final round.
The tournament, sponsored by Sprint, carries a purse of $1.4 million and pays the winner $252,000.
Lowery, 38th on the money list with $327,646, overcame the disappointment of his opening round, when he bogeyed and double-bogeyed his last two holes.
"It was like getting hit in the stomach," he said. "But I still felt good about the way I was playing."
Reid, whose lack of distance and conservative play make him an unlikely contender in this go-for-broke event, had 6 points Friday, using five birdies to offset a bogey and double bogey.
Reid, one of the shorter but more accurate hitters on the tour, started at No. 10 and birdied the 11th hole, but promptly took a double bogey at the 12th when he hit his approach shot into the water. He rebounded with birdies on the next two holes.
"I think that helped settle me down," Reid said. "I mixed some really good swings with some really loose swings today.
"If your misses are fairly playable, you can keep going forward, and that's the key to this format. You're going to have bad shots and get a bogey here and there, but birdies are 2 points and bogeys only lose 1. That's the fun part of this format."
* * *
In Coon Rapids, Minn., Dick Rhyan was atop the leaderboard with a 6-under 66 at the Burnet Senior Classic.
Tom Weiskopf and George Archer were one stroke back. Dave Stockton, Bob E. Smith and Jim Dent were two behind the leader. Jim Albus, Larry Gilbert and Bob Brue each shot 69 at the 6,909-yard Bunker Hills Golf Course.
* * *
In Naperville, Ill., lightning and the threat of a tornado forced the suspension of play at the LPGA Chicago Challenge.