October 16, 2021 by Cameron Guidry in Recap with comments
Two faces from the opening round kept the momentum going, and two new challengers join the fold.
Nathan Queen can’t miss right now, plain and simple. Whether it be his laser-straight lefty backhand drives through the woods, or his extensive range from well beyond the circle, he is on a hot streak that will be tough to match by anyone going into Saturday. His 7-under round was only hampered by one bogey, when he finally conceded a miss on a putt outside the circle. He paired a stellar 78% green in regulation rate with a sterling 90% C1X putting game, and three long range makes on the day, including two back-to-back 50-footers on 14 and 15. Queen is hitting fairways, hitting putts, and staying away from the hazards that have felled 20 of his competitors, and he is the story of the tournament so far. The field is on notice.
Gannon Buhr bounced back from a frustration-filled round 1 to post a 7-under par on the day as well, good enough to advance to the semifinal round. Buhr’s putting was even hotter than Queen’s, never missing inside of the circle, and cashing some jaw-dropping makes from outside circle, good for 67% C2 on the day with four makes. His stretch from holes 5 to 7 consisted of a 50-footer, 60-footer, and 40-footer, mixing in elevated baskets and treacherous hazards, none of which seemed to bother Buhr as he kept finding chains. His putting wasn’t the only thing that came alive in the quarters, as the young star began to hit lines accurately and with significant power, making some of the long par 3s look routine at Hornets Nest. The biggest critique of Buhr’s game this tournament is his tendency to hit a drought, posting five hole par streaks both days of competition, on different stretches of the course. While parring out has not bitten back in the weaker competitor pools, one would imagine that as the quality of play increases, so with the need to increase the birdie rate. On another note, Buhr received a second time-based warning for the tournament from a tournament official, and while this didn’t have an effect today, if he is changing from his methodical routine on the fly, it could be a factor to watch when he is on the greens.
Drew Gibson’s putter may not be at its apex of the season, but does it really matter when you can throw a Buzzz 500 feet? The best word to describe Gibson off the tee is brazen, whether it be his audacious midrange choices or high-risk, high-reward roller plays, he is electric to watch off the tee. While he finds himself advancing off of that strong driving game (89% fairway hits), it’s inside 200 feet where he is leaving strokes on the table. The shot that encompassed his day the most was on hole 7, as Gibson threw a 500-foot roller to the center of the fairway, with only 150 feet left of work to do. His upshot was left with a bit of a trickier approach angle and fell short, and he missed his 25-foot birdie putt low settling for the par. Gibson’s power and the nature of the slower discs he’s throwing means that he often has two chances to putt before being in danger of a bogey and he only had one on the entire day. He advances with a 7-under par but as the field will soon demand more birdies from him, and we will see if he can hang with the next level without his upshot and putting game clicking.
Rounding out the group advancing is Matt Orum. Matty O was hanging around for most of his round on Friday, getting to 3-under early before settling for par on six straight holes, and getting two clutch birdies down the stretch when he needed them most. On 17, Orum sank a putt at the edge of circle for birdie and fist pumped emphatically, knowing that he had put himself into a tie for the final spot at 5-under par, and earned himself the ability to play hole 18 for par. As the higher seed, he would advance over Chris Clemons (5-under), and can continue to play for the record-setting purse. Orum had two early hiccups, two-putting on hole 3 and finding OB on hole 4, but where he really has to improve on Saturday will be on his par stretch. The early portion of the back 9 is causing havoc for most who play it, and Orum did well to save par despite missing off the tee, but converting those holes to blue is going to be crucial to continue on in the competition.
The three top-ranked players in the quarters were unable to advance, and two-time champ Chris Dickerson, Ezra Aderhold, and Joel Freeman are done for the weekend.
Since 2017, a player from round 1 or the quarterfinals has been present on the final day – Dana Vicich 2017, Dickerson 2018 and 2019, Austin Hannum 2020. Gibson, Buhr, Queen, and Orum will try to keep that streak alive by advancing on Saturday.
When Drew Gibson is in the field, there’s a good chance he will be leading in strokes gained from tee-to-green. His 5.30 strokes gained was a full 3 strokes better than second place Nathan Queen. This continues his brilliant run off the tee, carried over from USDGC where he at times doubled the field in the SGTtG stat. Looks like throwing a midrange on a rope is an advantage in the woods, who’d have thought.