Miller leads Players Cup by one

The Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada Staal Foundation Open
The Mackenzie Tour - PGA TOUR Canada

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Off to the best 36-hole start of his three-season Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada career, Brad Miller followed an opening 66 with a second-round 65 at Southwood Golf & Country Club to take a one-stroke lead into the third round of the 100th edition of The Players Cup.

“I’ve mostly been hitting the ball really well and giving myself a lot of looks (on the greens),” said Miller, who matched his low score of the season Friday. “I’m driving it well, hitting my irons solid and have been lucky to make a fair number of putts as well.”

Despite four top-25 finishes this season, this will be the 29-year old’s first opportunity to contend since the 2018 ATB Financial Classic, where he entered the final round in the third-to-last pairing, six strokes back of eventual winner Corey Pereira. Miller eventually tied for 10th.

“I think I’m a better player than I was last year, but in some ways, expectations are higher because of it, and I haven’t handled it very well,” said Miller, who missed his previous two cuts entering the week. “I keep using the word patience because that’s what I’ve been trying to do all year.”

Not getting ahead of himself after a solid opening round, having mentioned Thursday that he missed two cuts following opening rounds of 66-68 earlier this year, the thought of an early trip back to Baltimore, Md., was thrown out the window after he made birdies on six of his first eight holes.

“I understand that I’m going to miss cuts. This game is too hard to not have a missed cut here and there,” said Miller. “Because of that, I’m not hitting the panic button and I’ve moved on from it. We’re all good enough here to do this.”

Entering the week in 44th position on the Order of Merit with just the Mackenzie Investments Open remaining before the season-ending Canada Life Championship, Miller here with a “nothing to lose” attitude.

“Finishing 40th won’t do much for me right now,” said the University of Richmond alum. “I’m in good position, and I’m right where I want to be to make a jump into the top 25 or top 10.”

Derek Chang and Canadian Riley Wheeldon are each one back of Miller, with Wheeldon in search of his third Canada Life Canadian Player of the Week Award of the season.

Key Information

  • Vanderbilt alum Will Gordon stepped onto the 18th tee Friday with a chance to shoot 59. It was a somewhat familiar position for Gordon. During the first round of the Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open earlier this season, the first-year professional needed an eagle on the par-5 18th to break 60. In that tournament in June, Gordon made a birdie on the 18th hole to shoot a course-record 60. Friday morning, Gordon made eight birdies in his first 11 holes. After he made a six-foot putt for birdie on No. 16 and another six-footer on the 17th, he needed a birdie on No. 18. Gordon’s chip came within an inch of going in on its way past the pin, and from there he settled for a 61, setting the Southwood Golf & Country Club course record by two strokes.
  • Will Gordon’s 12-stroke improvement over Thursday’s 73 moved him up 92 spots on the leaderboard. Gordon is tied for fifth, three strokes back of leader Brad Miller.
  • Making three eagles through two rounds, two of them in his second round, Chris O’Neill fired a 66 Friday to enter the weekend tied for fifth. Starting the season off with back-to-back, top-10 finishes in his first two starts, the 26-year old has only made two cuts since, tying for 45th at the Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open and tying for 40th at the HFX Pro-Am. Finding his game in Winnipeg, the 68-66 start is the lowest of his Mackenzie Tour career.
  • Making only two bogeys through two rounds, Derek Chang broke 70 in each of the first two rounds for the third time this season, backing up his opening-round 64 with a 68. In his previous two instances, the Windsor Championship, where he opened 66-68, and the Osprey Valley Open, where he opened 69-69, he tied for 28th and 62nd, respectively.
  • Standing at 7-under on the day on the 17th tee, Daniel Stringfellow hit an 8-iron on the 194-yard hole and watched the ball enter the cup for his fifth career ace, first in eight years. The timely hole-in-one led to the 27-year old Stringfellow finishing his round 6-under in his final seven holes and pushed him to 12-under for the tournament, alone in fourth place. Wes McClain also made an ace Friday, using a 4iron on the 208-yard second hole.
  • Despite sitting in the eighth position on the Order of Merit, thanks to his win at the Lethbridge Paradise Canyon Open, Alex Chiarella has made just two cuts and his low round was 68. Chiarella broke out of his slump in a big way Friday, making nine birdies to fire a 65. He heads into the weekend in a tie for seventh.

Quotable

“Two of my three bogeys were from three-putts, but that just comes from hitting the ball 50 feet away. That will happen sometimes, and it’s nothing to be panicking about.” – Brad Miller

“I was in the final few groups a few times and have done OK. I’ve had to chase and made some mistakes chasing the leader, but I won a Q-School event for this Tour last year, so I promise I’m going to be reflecting on that tonight.” – Brad Miller

“The good thing with this course is that you have to shoot under par and really have to go deep, so there’s no protecting anything. I’m going to have to shoot double-digits under par to win, so there’s no taking the foot off the gas.” – Brad Miller

“I’m a bit upset, on my last hole I three-putted for par because I was so flustered by seeing a 12-under on the leaderboard. It was right behind the hole from where I was putting, and I was like ‘There’s no way that’s right, they must have put the wrong thing and put a 12.’ There’s no letting off the gas because if somebody at 4-under does that [Saturday], they’ll probably be in the final group.” – Brad Miller

“Yesterday was a ball-striking day, and I struggled a bit with the putter, but I was able to ball-strike my way to 6-under. Today, I didn’t hit it very well but was able to grind it out and scrap it out and get another round of 6-under in, which was good.” – Riley Wheeldon

“I feel good about my game. Last week I got off to a hot start but went stagnant, so I went into today feeling like I shot 6-over [Thursday] as opposed to 6-under. I tried to come out hungry today and move up the leaderboard instead of flatlining. I saw low scores early, so I knew they were out there.” – Riley Wheeldon

“I had an opportunity to (shoot 59) in Lethbridge. I’ve had two chips at it, but I would like a putt at it. I can’t get too greedy. It was really fun, and when you get going in those moments, it’s enjoyable and you feel like you can’t miss.” – Will Gordon

“I played horrible [Thursday]. I called my swing coach this morning and we talked at 5:30 a.m. I said that I wasn’t hitting anything like I wanted to, and that I couldn’t hit the hole. Today was a different story. I usually get up three and a half hours before my tee time, but today I skipped my stretching. I needed some rest and it paid off.” – Will Gordon

“On the front, I hit three or four wedges within two or three feet, so I had a bunch of tap-ins on the front. No. 15 was big; it was like 45 feet, so to make a putt like that when I was already going low is a huge bonus, and I used that momentum to prepare me for the last couple of holes.” – Will Gordon

“I haven’t been driving it great lately. I’ve been hitting it in the middle of the face but haven’t been choosing the right shots, and I haven’t controlled my shots. I wasn’t in the fairway a ton today. I was able to make birdie when I was and made longer putts when I was in the rough.” – Will Gordon

“I haven’t played with the consistency I expected this year, but it’s more about learning off the golf course about how to manage rest, mind and travel and stay locked in mentally. That’s the challenge I’m facing, and I’m trying to grow in that area.” – Will Gordon

“I’m not really hitting my driver well, so I’ve been hitting stingers off the tee and shots like that to keep it in play. I made a birdie on the first par-5 and struggled a bit on some of the other holes on the front (nine).” – Ryan Snouffer

“After making birdie on No. 9, I told myself that if I got something going, I could shoot a low round still, and I ended up making birdie on No. 11. From there I stuck it out and got to the last par-5 and made about a 45- or 50-footer for eagle that just fell in on the lip. At that point I was determined to finish with two birdies to finish 10-under because I haven’t done that before through two days, and I ended up doing it, so that felt pretty good.” – Ryan Snouffer

“I’m No. 76 on the money list, so I need a good finish here or in Montreal to get status for next season or some other good perks, so that’s my big goal. I want to finish inside the top five here, and if I can play well the next two events, who knows what could happen.” – Ryan Snouffer

Second-Round Weather: Sunny. High of 24. Wind 10 KPH.