Saturday, October 08, 2011


CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee -- John Mallinger shot a 7-under 65 Friday and grabbed the 36-hole lead at the Children's Hospital Classic in Chattanooga. Mallinger's 13-under 131 total is one better than former Navy Lieutenant Billy Hurley III, who kept pace with his own 65 at Black Creek Mountain and former champion Justin Bolli (67).
Monday qualifier Brice Garnett (68) is two shots back while Aaron Watkins (65), first-round leader Nicholas Thompson (71), Brett Wetterich (68) and 2006 champion Kyle Reifers (67) are tied for fifth place, three off the pace.
Mallinger has been on a hot streak on the Nationwide Tour after struggling all season on the US PGA Tour. The former Long Beach State standout missed the cut in his first five starts to begin the 2011 campaign. He made six of nine after that but he still missed out on the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup when they began in late August.
"I like to keep playing and I think that's why it was so hard for me this year. Because of my conditional status I didn't know when I was getting in," he said. "The tournaments were so spread out that I couldn't get a rhythm going."
He's in perfect sync after returning to the Nationwide Tour where he cut his teeth in 2005-06. While his cohorts were battling in the first Playoff event in New Jersey, Mallinger finished tied for third at the News Sentinel Open in Knoxville after holding the second-round lead.
He added consecutive runner-up finishes in Pittsburgh and Boise before a T6 two weeks ago in California.
"I knew I was playing well and wanted to keep going," he said of his decision to play Nationwide Tour events. "Here I am sitting 11th on the money list six weeks later."
The biggest reasons for his sudden surge are putting and confidence. Or confidence and putting.
"I think it's just believing in myself a little more. I'm obviously holing a lot more putts, that's a big key," he said. "You just have confidence when you get over the ball. You're not thinking about anything but making the putt. That feeling doesn't come too often and you have to take advantage of it when it does."
It certainly helps your chances to make a few putts when you have as many chances as he's had. Mallinger's missed only one green in two days.
"You get momentum going and get some confidence and you can start hitting the flag more," he added. "I have a better chance of holing the putt even if I do miss the green."
Confidence is also high for Hurley, who has been making steady progress during his first full season as a professional. The Annapolis graduate has inched his way to No. 23 on the money list by making nine of his last 10 cuts but is trying not to think about the pressure that is building as the season winds down and The 25 leading money winners gain US PGA Tour status for 2012.
"It's the unspoken thing that's out there. It's the big elephant in the room," he said. "It just is what it is. The only thing you can do anything about is the golf shot you've got in front of you."
Hurley knows that if he can play well down the stretch, things will take care of themselves.
"I don't need any help from anybody else," he said. "I don't need the right people to finish in the right places. I just need to play solid golf and it will be fine."
He was solid on Friday, hitting all 18 greens and cashing in on five birdies and rolling in a 35-footer for eagle.
"You shoot 7-under and hate to say you hit some putts that could have gone in, but I did," he said. "On greens like this I feel I should make -- everything might be a bad word -- but I feel like I should make a lot of putts. For whatever reason I see these greens really well. I just see where it's supposed to go."
Second-Round Notes
* A total of 76 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 4-under 140. They included England's Greg Owen but he slipped down from T6 to T35 with a 72 for 138. Compatriot Matthew Richardson failed to make it despite a two-under-par tally of 142 (72-70) - that's how high the standard of play is on the Nationwide Tour. Scotland's Russell Knox was not in the field this week. 
* Second-round leader Mallinger has posted five consecutive top-10 finishes, one shy of the Nationwide Tour's all-time record.





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