Sep 01, 2019: Chris Baker used a second-round 69 at Victoria National Golf Club to take the 36-hole lead at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance. Lanto Griffin and Tom Lewis sit two shots off the pace at 10-under 134, while Joseph Bramlett and Kramer Hickok sit three strokes back at 9-under 135. India’s Shubhankar Sharma added even-par-72 two his first round six-under-66 and lying at T10.
Baker struggled out of the gate on Saturday playing his first four holes at 1 over. The Brownstown, Indiana, native rebounded with birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 but gave a shot back after a bogey at the par-3 16th. Despite the stumble, he bounced back with a birdie at the par-4 17th to make the turn at 10-under for the week.
After another slow start on his second nine, Baker caught the spark he needed after holing his second shot from 134-yards at the par-4 eighth. He followed the eagle with a birdie at the last to finish at 12-under for the week.
“Gosh, that was pretty cool,” Baker said of his eagle on Saturday. “I had 134 [yards] I believe to a back left pin, hit wedge. It flew about two paces, a pace and a half back behind the hole and spun back in.”
Baker, who had a hole-out eagle Friday, finds himself in a familiar position at the top of the leaderboard through 36-holes. Earlier this season, he held the 36-hole lead at the Country Club de Bogotá Championship eventually finishing T51.
At the REX Hospital Open in June, Baker held the 36-hole lead after shooting a course-record second-round 60. Despite the hot start, he went on to finish T4 but can draw from his experience heading into the final two rounds at Victoria National.
“Raleigh obviously didn’t go as planned, but it’s almost like I almost have to care less, if that’s possible,” Baker recalled. “I think I just try so hard and it doesn’t work out when you try hard or try to be perfect. Instead, just go out and let it happen.”
Baker, who turned professional in 2008, is in search of his first PGA TOUR card. The 33-year-old finished the Regular Season ranked 26th in The 25, one spot shy of earning a trip to the PGA TOUR. Throughout his career, Baker has made only one start on TOUR in 2016 at The Honda Classic where he missed the cut.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s there, right, so you can’t not think about it, but at the same time, it’s still golf,” Baker said of potentially earning his PGA TOUR card. “You have to hit the shots and just have to keep moving forward.”
Tom Lewis charged up the leaderboard after a second-round 66 on Saturday. Lewis, who is making his first start on the Korn Ferry Tour, dropped a shot on his second hole of the day, but immediately rebounded with five birdies over his next six holes. He kept his momentum going with birdies on Nos. 11 and 12 and played his next six holes at even-par to finish the second round two shots off the lead.
“It’s a course that’s challenging,” Lewis said of Victoria National. “You have to hit it very solid and I’ve done that for a couple days.”
Lewis entered the week ranked 85th in the Official World Golf Ranking. The 28-year-old has spent much of his career on the European Tour, recording two wins in 187 starts. He now looks to earn his PGA TOUR card with a strong finish at Victoria National.
“My aspiration is to be as good a player as I can and being over on the PGA TOUR would be a dream of mine,” Lewis said. “I’ve had one really good year. So hopefully I can continue that and hopefully be over here in the near future and focus over here.”
Tied with Lewis in second is Lanto Griffin, who earned his 2019-20 PGA TOUR card after finishing sixth on the Regular Season points list. The 31-year-old began his day on the back nine at Victoria National playing his first six holes at even-par and caught fire recording seven birdies over his next 12 holes. His second-round 65 matched Scottie Scheffler for the low round of the day.
“I played really smart, and kind of stuck to my game plan,” Griffin said. “On a golf course like this, if you get off to a good start, you don’t have to fire at every pin. And for me, when I’m hitting it to 10-, to 15- to 25-feet and making those, golf feels pretty easy.”
Griffin spent the 2017-18 season on the PGA TOUR after earning his card during the 2017 Korn Ferry Tour season. The Jacksonville Beach, Florida, resident made 13 cuts in 26 starts in his rookie season on TOUR before finishing 171st in the FedExCup standings. After another year on the Korn Ferry Tour, he feels ready to return to the PGA TOUR with experience on his side.
“I’m a lot more confident in the fact that I kind of know what to expect,” Griffin said of the upcoming PGA TOUR season. “Going out there the first time, it doesn’t matter how many tournaments you’ve lost or been at, it’s just a different feeling being inside the ropes. It makes me more comfortable, more confident, but also more excited because it’s the most fun you can have playing this game.”
Joseph Bramlett and Kramer Hickok sit tied for fourth at 9-under 135, three shots off the lead.
Third-round tee times will run from approximately 7:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. with players teeing off both Nos. 1 and 10.