23 February 2019: A gritty effort from Arjun Atwal helped him sail into the weekend right on the number at the Puerto Rico Open. Atwal shot 73 on Friday as the knife fell on everyone below one over 145. D.J. Trahan, Nate Lashley and Roberto Diaz will start the third round with a share of the lead at 8-under 136. 75 professionals survived the knife, at 1-over 145, from a field of 129 professionals and three amateurs.
Trahan made seven birdies and two bogeys, one on either stretch, to account for his 67. Trahan’s best results have come many years ago when he won the 2008 Desert Classic and the 2006 Southern Farm Bureau Classic. He has held the 36 hole lead on four occasions, winning on two of those instances.
“I was definitely down for a long time,” Trahan admitted. “My back was a big issue for me, and I let that get to me mentally as well. I was really down on myself, and I wasn’t thinking or acting appropriately. I was beating myself up. And when your body’s hurting and your head’s hurting, there’s no good golf to be played because you’re playing against the best players in the world out here.”
“It’s a process, because it’s so easy to be negative. Quite frankly, it is more difficult to be positive. That was a choice I made and it certainly wasn’t an easy one, but it’s been very beneficial for me,” he said.
This is the first time he is leading at the end of a PGA TOUR round since the 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational. Trahan has made five starts this season, making four cuts with the T7 at the Sanderson Farms Championship his best result of 2019.
Lashley has never held the lead or a share of it at the end of a round, so he broke new ground on his debut at the Puerto Rico Open. He made six birdies and two bogeys for his 68.
“It’s pumping pretty good. You’ve got to hit solid shots and hopefully catch a wind gust and then get it on the green and make some putts,” he said. “You’ve got to stay consistent out there.”
This is Lashley’s 24th start on the PGA TOUR and the sixth this season. The Nebraska native has been in good shape this season, having accumulated three top 20s with the T12 at the Desert Classic his best result thus far.
Diaz graduated to the PGA TOUR from the class of 2018 in the Web.com Tour Finals. He has made all but four of the greens in regulation through 36 holes.
Diaz is coming off a T18, his best finish in 37 starts. The Mexican made it to the PGA TOUR first in the 2017-18 season. He was bogey free on Friday as he posted a solid 68 to join Lashley and Trahan in the lead.
“A bunch of Mexicans playing well at the moment, Carlos and Abe are putting the bar pretty high, so I need to keep up,” said Diaz. “I’m very excited for the upcoming weeks.”
The three men hold a one-stroke advantage over Roger Sloan (70-67), Martin Trainer (70-67), and Ben Crane (68-69)
In his first TOUR start this season, Atwal made a miserable beginning to the second round. Off the tenth tee, he was three over through six holes, conceding bogeys at 11, 14 & 15.
The 660th ranked Atwal made a great job of picking himself up from there even as the winds continued to make life difficult for the golfers at the Coco Beach Golf & Country Club.
A birdie at the par-4 17th hole swung the pendulum back his way and Atwal did a fine job keeping it there for the rest of the round. He came home without any further damage, adding a second birdie at the par-5 second hole.
Considering his recent travails – Arjun made just one cut in six starts last season – the strong finish on Friday and making the cut in his first PGA TOUR event of 2019 should give the Indian plenty of confidence.