Fri. Jul 12th, 2024

Bhatia shares lead in Detroit; Russell misses cut

By admin Jul9,2024


Jun 28, 2024, 07:47 PM ET

DETROIT — Akshay Bhatia walked down a fairway at Detroit Golf Club, looking for his ball after a long, straight tee shot, and found it in an improbable spot — underground, after it fell into a drain.

Bhatia said he and the PGA Tour rules official, who granted a free drop, had never seen anything like it.

“It was kind of one-in-a-million chance that ball goes in that small hole in that drain,” he said.

Bhatia went on to shoot a 5-under 67, good enough for a share of the 36-hole lead with Aaron Rai at 13-under 131 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic on Friday.

Bhatia’s drive on the par-5 17th hole managed to drop into one of five holes in a metal drain cap that were just big enough to accommodate a golf ball. He ended up making par in his second straight bogey-free round.

“It’s going to be pretty viral, I think,” he said.

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Rai shot 65 to match Bhatia on a course that consistently yields low scores. The Englishman made seven birdies, including four in a five-hole stretch midway through the round, and capped his day with a 21-foot birdie putt on the 18th.

Taylor Montgomery (68), Troy Merritt (64), Erik van Rooyen (64) and Cameron Young (66) were two strokes behind the co-leaders.

Eric Cole (68), Cam Davis (66) and Joel Dahmen (64) were another shot back.

Miles Russell, a 15-year-old amateur from Florida, shot 70 on Friday but missed the cut in his PGA Tour debut at even-par 144.

The 5-foot-7, 120-pound Russell was a fan favorite, drawing relatively large galleries and hearing a lot of encouragement. After signing his card and fielding questions from reporters, he hugged family members, posed for photos and signed autographs.

“It’s been surreal,” his mother, Keli Russell, said, holding back tears. “The support from everyone has just been incredible.”

Russell, the youngest player to make a cut on the Korn Ferry Tour, will return to the Motor City next month for the U.S. Junior Amateur at Oakland Hills, where Tiger Woods‘ son, Charlie, will also be in the field.

“[Charlie Woods] was at actually at my charity event I put on, the Florida Sunshine Cup, I played with him there,” Russell said. “I haven’t played with him in a while and it’ll be good to see him.”

Neal Shipley, the low amateur at the Masters and U.S. Open, gave himself a chance to contend in his first PGA Tour event as a pro. He was four shots back after a 68.

“With my experience with the majors, I don’t feel like there’s a big learning curve for me,” he said.

Amateur Luke Clanton (68) was 7 under, flashing the talent he showed last season at Florida State, where he set a school record with a 69.3 scoring average.

The 22-year-old Bhatia chose to skip college and turned pro at age 17.

“I’ve got a long time to go before I can say, you know, this is the right decision, but so far I’ve made progress every year I’ve been a pro,” he said.

He picked up his second PGA Tour victory at the Texas Open in April and is coming off a fifth-place finish at the Travelers Championship, where he was in the final group that was disrupted by climate protesters storming the 18th green.

Rai, Montgomery and Young are each seeking their first PGA Tour victory. Merritt and van Rooyen have each won twice.

Tom Kim, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 16, followed up a first-round 73 with a 68 and missed the cut by a stroke at 3 under. After losing to Scottie Scheffler in a playoff last week in Connecticut, he might have run out of gas in the Motor City in his ninth straight tournament.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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