August 7th 2018 - For a while on Tuesday, the proper gear to play The Glen Club and Ravinia Green Country Club, simultaneous sites of the 69th Illinois Open, would have included not only 14 clubs and an umbrella, but a snorkel as well.
It rained that hard and that often from mid-afternoon until the dinner hour. And when the squeegees were replaced by golfers, the courses, already softened by heavy showers on Monday morning, were soft as Twinkies. The approach game became lawn darts as much as golf.
Yet, when night fell – with many players yet to complete their appointed rounds – among the leaders were a couple of fellows who were among the first off in the morning, and are, at least until the rooster crows on Wednesday morning, elbowing each other for control of this waterlogged 54-hole feast of golf.
Andy Mickelson, director of golf at Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville, added a 2-under 70 at The Glen Club to his opening 66 at Ravinia Green for a 36-hole aggregate of 8-under 136. Brian Bullington, erstwhile Iowa standout from Manhattan in Will County, and aiming for a Tour card in the near future, posted his second straight 68 playing alongside Mickelson.
They’re joined by newly-minted pro Daniel Hudson, a Western Springs native who graduated from Kansas this summer and has yet to earn a penny on the Canadian Mackenzie Tour in four starts. He’ll cash in here after adding a rain-delayed 3-under 69 at Ravinia Green to Monday’s 67.
“It’s exciting I have a chance to win a golf tournament,” Hudson said. “I can’t tell you the last time that’s happened. I played a month on the Mackenzie Tour in June, felt I was playing well but didn’t get much out of it. Even this week I bet I’ve missed eight putts inside eight feet. If you want to win, especially on the PGA Tour, you’ve got to make those putts. There’s still a lot of room for improvement.”
It could have been better for Hudson. He stood 11-under when he sailed his tee shot out of bounds on the par-5 18th and struggled to make an 8. That dropped him to 8-under and brought a passel of players into the mix, and into the final round, which admits the low 50 and ties, or those within 10 strokes of the leader.
“I’d just hit a pretty good shot into 17 and almost holed that for birdie,” Hudson said. “Unfortunately I made one of the worst swings of the week on a hole where there’s trouble in that direction.”
That trio of finishers holds a one-stroke lead on professional Dakun Chang and amateurs Kyle Irlbacker and Matt Murlick, at 7-under 137, and are two ahead of second-year pro Kyle Kochevar entering Wednesday’s final round.
Bullington admitted to having “a rough spring,” attributing it to going through simultaneous swing and equipment changes. He realized he had to get longer or would be lapped by the field. That meant a higher swing speed with newer technology.
“I put on a lot of clubhead speed,” Bullington said. “That translates to a club or club-and-a-half less on approaches. You’ve got to trust your swing, and then you’ve got to trust it in tournaments.”
Bullington is at that point now. He qualified for the recent John Deere Classic, and while he missed the cut, fighting his way through the four-spot that Monday was an achievement.
Mickelson’s highlight of the day was the eagle that wasn’t on No. 15.
“Had 85 yards, hit a lob wedge, took one bounce, went in and came out,” Mickelson recalled. He settled for knocking in the five-footer for birdie, one of six birdies in the round.
A double-bogey on No. 3 caused by hitting into the gorse and two bogeys hurt his card, but he’s in his best position going into the final round of the state championship.
The horn to stop play sounded at 7:57 p.m., and when it did, Brendan O’Reilly stood at 8-under through 28 holes, building on his opening 67. And 2015 winner David Cooke was at 7-under with eight holes remaining in his second round.
The long delay – four hours at Ravinia Green and 3:42 at The Glen Club, forces the conclusion of the second round deep into Wednesday morning. Only then will the cut to the low 50 and ties be made, and then pairings, and then the final round. If there’s no more bad weather, the finish should come by 6 p.m. ... Scores at The Glen Club averaged 75.85 strokes for the in-progress second round, while the Ravinia Green crowd was at 77.59 strokes when play halted.