Christian Brand followed up his first-round 66 with a 70 Thursday, leaving him two strokes behind leader Craig Berner going into today's final round at Edgewood Country Club.
For the record, Craig Berner did not call "bank." Or "bark."Some of his competitors half-jokingly called him a few choice names after his off-the-tree shot in the second round of the West Virginia Open.Berner's tee shot on the 190-yard par-3 sixth hole at Edgewood Country Club pushed to the right and was tossed about by a suddenly frisky wind. The ball headed for trees that line Derricks Creek, but hit one of the trees and bounced back onto the course.Even better, onto the green. Instead of a possible double bogey, he skated off with a "routine" par.
With that, the Edgewood head pro shot his second 67 in a row, giving him a 36-hole total of 8-under-par 134 and a two-shot lead over Christian Brand and Jonathan Clark.Those two shots represent the verdict rendered by the tree on the sixth, Berner's 15th hole of the day."You only get so many 'barkies,' " said Clark, who played in Berner's threesome. "I was rooting for him. He's my best buddy. And when he hit that shot, the last thing I wanted was to see that thing ricochet in that hazard."You know what? I don't want that. He's played absolutely pure for two days. To watch him play that well and after I made my triple on my 12th hole [No. 3], I don't want to see him do something wrong."OK, that's what Clark said for public consumption, after the round ended. He meant it, too.But what did Clark say right after Berner's shot plopped on the green?"I'll tell you what: I told him ... I won't even say what I told him. It wasn't for the media, it wasn't for the TV, it wasn't for anybody else what I told him on the tee," Clark said. "But you know what? It was a great 3 and those are the things that win you an Open."Earlier in the afternoon, Brad Westfall had the same exact shot on the same hole, but his ball simply disappeared into the jungle. He left with a double bogey, turning a very good round into a simple 70.Westfall would have had the same off-color comments for Berner, but took a relatively diplomatic tack: "He's got membership bounces, I guess. I'd have something else to say about it, but ..."But really, the 36-year-old Berner didn't just use a lucky break and course knowledge to take his 36-hole lead. The 2005 champion is simply playing well."The way Craig played ... I don't know if anybody has made putts like that," Clark said. "What did he have? 17 putts? I mean, that was unbelievable. If I putted like that, I'd be on the [PGA] Tour."
Berner, Clark and Brand will play in the last threesome of today's final round, teeing off at about 10:51 a.m. Clark and Brand will try to fix what derailed promising rounds Thursday.Brand followed his first-round 66 with a 1-under 70, giving up a few strokes on the front nine and finishing stronger on the back. But he bemoaned his 34 putts."It was frustrating. I hit all my lines today and I hit a lot of quality putts; they just did not go in," Brand said. "Some days you're going to have that, but you have to be patient, grind it out and try to put up a good-enough score."Clark's triple bogey on No. 3 had him muttering about the dark side of sand for several holes. He hit in a bunker and blew two shots trying to get out."I've been in two bunkers in two days, and I'm 5 over," he said. "I haven't found one I can get out of yet." Those aren't the only three with a shot. Lurking behind them is six-time champion David Bradshaw, who rejuvenated his tournament with a 67. He is three shots back at 5 under.
Beginning on No. 10 in the morning shift, Bradshaw had four birdies and 14 pars. Unlike his first round Wednesday, he birdied two par-5s.But he wasn't satisfied with his round, either."I'm hitting the ball so good, it's actually frustrating to shoot these scores," Bradshaw said. "You'd think I'd be happy, but I haven't made a putt over 7 feet in two days. ... If it's any indication, I'm as many under on par-3s as I am on par-5s, and I can reach every single one of them in two."Sitting two shots behind Bradshaw at 3 under is a scramble for low amateur involving Hurricane residents Brian Anania and Sam O'Dell, Concord assistant golf coach Darcy Donaldson and Todd Westfall of Clendenin. Local pro and four-time champion Scott Davis is the other player under par, at 1-under 141.As he was about to sleep on his lead, Berner vowed that he won't go conservative today, and will still try to make as many birdies as he can. And if he can get another fortunate bounce, so be it."When those things happen, you've got to take advantage," Berner said. "It wasn't that bad a shot, it was just a little bit to the right of where I was aiming. On a couple of other holes, I hit it right where I was aiming, but it stayed in the rough."The way I look at it, it was kind of a make-up."Reach Doug Smock 304-348-5130 or email@example.com