Bob Estes followed up his opening 61 with a solid round of 66 to move four shots clear of Scott McCarron, Brent Schwarzrock and Sweden's Jesper Parnevik on day two of the $3.5 million St Jude Classic. Estes kept all the competition at bay as he finished 15 under par, while Curtis Strange and John Daly both moved into challenging positions.
Estes knew that he would have to keep building on the sparkling form he produced on day one. "Knowing the past history of this tournament at this course, you have to keep going," he said. "I remember when John Cook shot 26 under, and I guess a lot of times, it takes 20, 22 under to win this thing."
Continuing to use the new putter that he received from a manufacturers' rep earlier this week, and a new driver he switched to last week, has given Estes the additional confidence to play better. "I haven't driven the ball well the last six or seven years," he admitted. "Now I've got a driver just about where I want it. If I just go ahead and turn it loose now, I'm going to hit it good."
He sees no reason why his fortunes should change at the weekend. "The good thing is that I don't really have to think about anything. Now, the less I think the better I'm going to hit it, the better I'm going to putt." It is a perspective on the game that has been quite different for Estes in the last couple of weeks. In the past, he has played defensively. "Now, I'm in a position where I can play offense," he said. "I can hit the ball hard and it is going to go where I want it to."
Schwarzrock, who is 123rd on the money list but finished tied for ninth at the Kemper Insurance Open two weeks ago, carded a 67 to stand alongside McCarron and Parnevik on 131. The highlight of McCarron's six-under-par 65 was a sequence of three straight birdies, starting at the par-four 10th. Parnevik produced the lowest round of the day a seven-under-par 64 which contained seven birdies. Like McCarron, the Swede birdied three holes in a row, but his run started at the par-five third.
A winner earlier this year at the Honda Classic, Parnevik has not played this event before, but is making the most of his first visit and using all his spare time to prepare for next week's US Open. "I've been working very, very hard the last few weeks," he said. "I've probably hit balls for five or six hours a day and so I feel pretty good out there. I hate going into a major in search of a game. I would rather go to a major and know what I'm doing on the golf course."
Schwarzrock's year had been mediocre before the Kemper Insurance Open two weeks ago. He had made five cuts in 10 events. He credited his good play this week to his consistent driving and good yardages to the pins, but his caddy helped him capitalise on the greens. "My caddy was seeing putts that I wasn't seeing, and I just went with him a couple of times early yesterday and just kept letting him read them for me," he said.
Strange added a 67 to his opening 65 and is alone in fifth place on 132, while Daly returned a 65 to join four other players on 134.
Estes has been very John Cook-like this week, his 127 total falling one stroke shy of American compatriot Cook's 36-hole tournament record of 126 shots in 1996.
Strange, who has been busy with his duties as the US Ryder Cup captain and as an analyst for ABC Sports, has not played well this year. He had missed six cuts in a row before finishing 69th at the Memorial Tournament last week in Dublin, Ohio. "I've actually hit the ball very well," he said after serving double duty on the course and in the TV commentators' box. "This year I had played horrible, but you get out of it what you put into it and I haven't put much into it."
Daly, like Strange, has been striking the ball and putting well this week. "The ball is at least hitting the hole and some are disappearing," he said of a round that included eagles on the par-five third and 16th holes.Reuse content