Korn Ferry Tour Release, 17 August 2019: A former Oklahoma State University golfer sits atop the leaderboard at the halfway point of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, but it may not be the cowboy everyone expected.
Kevin Dougherty fired a second-round 5-under 66 to take the 36-hole lead at 134 (-8). Brandon Hagy sits alone in second, one stroke back after a final-hole birdie for a 4-under 67. Third at 6-under 136 is Brendon Todd, who shot a 7-under 64, the low round of the day.
Anirban Lahiri shot an even 71 as he remained inside the top ten for the second day running. The 32-year-old posted three birdies but also conceded as many strokes as he sought to secure his future on the PGA TOUR with some good performances through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, a series of three events starting this week.
Shubhankar Sharma missed the cut after reaching the halfway stage at 12-over with scores of 75 and 79.
Overnight co-leaders Viktor Hovland, tied fourth at 137 (-5) and Cameron Percy, tied eighth at 138 (-4), struggled in the afternoon conditions with rounds of 73 and 74, respectively.
Dougherty, a 28-year-old from Murrieta, California, began on the 10th hole and notched three birdies on his opening nine, at Nos. 12, 16 and 18, before adding a fourth birdie at No. 4. When his sand-wedge from 117 yards settled less than two feet from the cup on his final hole, he tapped in for birdie and a bogey-free, 5-under 66.
After coming in off three missed cuts, Dougherty said his tee shots have been his strength this week.
“I think I missed three fairways the first two days and two of them were in the first cut by a foot,” Dougherty said. “I’m driving it really good and giving myself really good looks at the holes.”
Dougherty, No. 26 at the conclusion of last year’s Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season when he narrowly missed a chip-in birdie on the 72nd hole that would have moved him inside The 25, is at the Korn Ferry Tour Finals this season after finishing the Regular Season at No. 33. His highlight was a runner-up finish at the Wichita Open Supporting Wichita’s Youth where he was eliminated in a five-man playoff won by Henrik Norlander. The following week he tied for third at the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank.
Now that the Regular Season is complete, Dougherty, who got engaged to Lindsay Suchy two weeks ago, feels like it’s nice to have a fresh start this week.
“Everyone is at zero so it doesn’t matter what we did from January in the Bahamas until now,” Dougherty said. “Then again, these events are really important, so there’s just as much on the line for sure.”
Brandon Hagy, on the comeback trail after being sidelined by a hairline fracture of his left wrist that kept him out of the game for five months in 2018, mixed five birdies with three bogeys and an eagle at the par-5 sixth hole to move into solo-second, one stroke back of Dougherty.
“I never dealt with taking five months off before,” Hagy said. “I had some flashes of some good golf last summer on this tour, which gave me some confidence.”
This season on the PGA TOUR, Hagy made one cut in the 13 events he played, advancing to the weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego, California, eventually finishing in a tie for 66th. His lone Korn Ferry Tour start was a missed cut at the Knoxville Open.
“It’s a fine line out there (on the PGA TOUR),” Hagy added. “I think I missed like six or seven cuts by one shot, which you’re not really playing that bad on that tour if you’re missing a cut by one shot. So, I’ve just been trying to stay positive, keep reinforcing the good stuff. It’s a lot easier said than done, for sure, but I think I can do it.”
The best move of the day came from PGA TOUR winner Brendon Todd, who closed with four straight birdies to shoot 7-under 64 in the early wave and sit third at 136 (-6). Todd, who began the tournament with a double bogey on Thursday when his opening tee shot ended up just inches over the out-of-bounds line and sat tied 65th, credited his jump of 62 spots on the leaderboard to improved ball-striking.
“It’s a good golf course for me because it is difficult and there’s some strategy involved, because the holes are so tight and there’s so many doglegs,” Todd said. “From that standpoint, being a shorter hitter but somebody who kind of places the ball, it’s a pretty good track for me.”
Todd had struggled with his game for several years before seeing notable improvement this year, making the cut in seven of 11 PGA TOUR starts. Before those 11 starts in the 2018-19 PGA TOUR season, the only cut he’d made in his 20 previous starts was a tie for 70th at the 2017 AT&T Byron Nelson, the tournament he won in 2014 for his lone PGA TOUR title.
“I really built a lot of momentum this year and I feel ready to compete out here,” Todd said. “These finals are really all about having that great week. I look at each week as a one?week race to the top. If you can win or cash in on the top three, you can get back on the PGA TOUR, and that’s kind of what this is all about for me.”
Scott Harrington, who finished solo-second at last week’s WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by KraftHeinz to move to No. 19 and earn a PGA TOUR card, birdied five of his last six holes for 67 to sit tied fourth with Hovland, Ben Taylor and Ben Martin at 5-under 137.
The 36-hole cut came at 1-over 143 with 75 professionals advancing to the weekend.