FARMINGTON — So far, things couldn’t have gone much better for Utah’s Patrick Fishburn, who is playing this week on a sponsor’s exemption at the Web.com Tour’s Utah Championship at Oakridge Country Club.
Well, it’s not going quite as good as it is for Cameron Champ, who is threatening to run away with the tournament after adding a 7-under-par 64 to his opening-round 61, which gives him a three-stroke lead at the halfway point of the $700,000 tournament.
But for Fishburn, the ex-BYU golfer and reigning Utah Open champion, firing a second straight 67 to put him in a tie for 23rd place in his first Web.com event is something to be doing cartwheels about, even if he expected more.
“It’s awesome to play good enough to make the cut,” he said. “But my goal coming in was to win. Obviously I’ve got a little ground to make up (nine strokes behind Champ).”
In winning the Utah Open last year at Riverside Country Club, Fishburn shattered the tournament record with rounds of 63, 64 and 63. He figures he needs to shoot similar scores the next two days to have a chance to reach his goal of winning.
“I’m going to go out there and try to shoot a low one like the Utah Open,” he said. “If I get hot like that and post a low number to get myself a spot where maybe I have an outside shot to get in the hunt on the last day.”
Fishburn has certainly attracted the largest galleries of the week so far at Oakridge with friends from Ogden and Provo watching him. The Fishburn followers are ecstatic when he hits shots like his wedge at No. 18 that missed the cup by inches before settling two feet away and they turn away and groan when he misses putts like the five-foot birdie try at No. 9.
“(Ogden) is just 15 minutes away, there’s a lot of guys coming out to watch and friends and family,” he said. “They’ve been extremely supportive. It definitely gives me a lot of energy when I’m out there playing, when you get a little roar, because I’m not used to it. But it’s nice.”
Fishburn said his two rounds were quite different and he was more proud of his Friday 67 than his Thursday 67.
“I’m a little happier with today’s 67 compared to yesterday,’ he said. “They were very different rounds. Yesterday I hit it great and couldn’t make anything, but today I was kind of all over the place off the tees and behind trees. I was very happy with the way I scrambled today because it definitely could have been a lot higher for sure.”
Fishburn birdied holes 3 and 5, bogeyed 4 and 8 to finish even on the front nine. But on the back side, he came back with a birdie at No. 10 and after five straight pars, made birdies at holes 15 and 16 and finished off with his near-holeout on No. 18.
“That was my goal when I made the turn — I wanted to shoot 4 under on the back and match yesterday’s score,” he said. “I finished strong on the back nine.”
The 23-year-old Champ is originally from Sacramento but played collegiately for Texas A&M, where he left after his junior year to turn professional. He made the cut at the 2017 U.S. Open and that gave him a pass through the first stage of qualifying at the PGA Tour Q School, so he graduated early and turned professional.
He started off slowly this year, missing cuts in three of his first seven tournaments, but has come on strong with four straight top-10 finishes, which has vaulted him to the precipice of exempt status at No. 27 on the Web.com money list (top 25 at end of the year are exempt).
“I stayed patient today,” he said. “I’ve had to work on that — I get off to good starts and I put too much pressure on my putting. Today I was rolling it well.”
Champ’s two-round score of 125 breaks the tournament two-round record of 126 set by Chad Collins in 2013 at Willow Creek CC and tied by Kyle Wilshire at Oakridge last year. A win would catapult him to No. 3 on the money list and secure his spot on next year’s PGA Tour.
He’s three ahead of Steven Ihm (pronounced I’m), a 26-year-old from Iowa who followed up his opening-round 63 with a solid 65, capped off by a 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole. Ihm is only playing in his third Web.com event of the year, having made the cut in the other two.
Bhavik Patel and Jim Knous both shot 64s Friday and are tied for third at 129, followed by Luke Guthrie and Sam Burns at 130.Comment on this story
TOURNEY NOTES: The cut came at 5-under-par 137 with 69 players advancing to Saturday’s third round . . . Scott Pinckney, who grew up playing junior golf in Utah before moving to Arizona, had another good round Friday, a 5-under-par 66 that puts him in a tie for 13thxx at 133 . . . Sandy’s Mike Weir improved with a 69 Friday after an opening-round 71, but it left him three shots off the cut line at 140 . . . Former Utah State golfer and current River Oaks assistant pro Seokwon Jeon shot his second round 72 to finish at 144 . . . The tournament is being televised by the Golf Channel and both Saturday and Sunday’s rounds will end around 7 p.m. . . . The Utah Championship is the second largest purse on the Web.com Tour with $126,000 going to the winner.