GOLF

Flores quietly moves into tie for lead at Wells Fargo

ablondin@thesunnews.comMay 2, 2014 

SPORTS GLF-WELLSFARGO 11 CH

JEFF SINER — MCT

— Martin Flores is playing in his 100th PGA Tour event. He’s been one of those players over the past five seasons who has managed to earn a decent living on the tour without making a whole lot of noise.

He doesn’t yet have a win, and when he tees off Saturday it will be the first time he’s done so on a weekend after holding at least a share of a 36-hole lead.

For a player with a demure demeanor and soft-spoken results, Flores has a chance to become loud in the golf world this weekend.

The 32-year-old Texas native and Oklahoma graduate shot a 4-under-par 68 Friday in the second round of the 12th Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club to tie first-round leader Angel Cabrera for the lead at 9-under 135.

“It’s pretty cool,” Flores said.

Englishman Justin Rose, who is seeking his first PGA Tour win since last year’s U.S. Open, is a stroke back at 8 under, and J.B. Holmes and Shawn Stefani are two back and tied for fourth. Stewart Cink, Kevin Kisner and Martin Kaymer are three shots back, and Jonathan Byrd, Geoff Ogilvy and Martin Laird are at 5-under 139.

Flores is fairly emotionless on the course, as he displayed when he holed a 56-degree wedge from 105 yards to eagle the par-4 11th – his second hole of the day that followed an opening birdie. “I’m pretty chill, you know,” he said. “I may not be that on the inside, but outwardly it looks like that a lot of the time.

“I’m pretty level, so I actually got made fun of because I didn’t give any reaction. I had my head down and I was thinking, ‘That’s a nice shot, let’s go make it,’ and then all of the sudden I heard the cheers so I kind of [lifted my head]. It was a great start to the day.”

Will Flores’ composure on the course benefit him in the heat of contention? “I don’t know if it’s going to work in my favor, but it’s just who I am,” Flores said.

Flores is 226th in the Official World Golf Ranking and has five career top-10s on the PGA Tour. He has a career-best tie for fourth at last year’s John Deere Classic, but came from well off the lead with a closing 63 to manage that.

After a slow start to the season, Flores has four top-20s in his last six starts, with a top finish of 12th, so he’s shown signs of becoming a more consistent player.

“I have four top 20s out of last six events but I haven’t kicked it over,” Flores said. “I’ve had spurts where the rounds are petty good and I’ve messed it up a little bit but I just haven’t produced what I’ve been doing in practice in the tournaments, and now it’s starting to show. I need to continue to be patient and let things unfold.

“… You know, I’ve tried to refuse to think about winning because it’s a product of, as they always say, [the process].”

Despite being a two-time major champion, Cabrera hasn’t been in his position much in his decade-plus PGA Tour career, either. In addition to his 2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters victories, he has one runner-up and one third-place finish on tour.

The Argentinian has made just two cuts in nine events this season, but showed that his inconsistent play may have become consistent this week.

He followed up a 66 Thursday with a 69 that included six birdies and three bogeys, giving him 13 birdies in the opening two rounds.

“I’ve been working really hard to have weeks like this, and I’m going to keep working and more weeks like this will come,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “It’s difficult to know exactly when you’re going to play well.”

His putter did much of the work in the first round with just 24 putts, and his ball-striking carried the day Friday. “Today I really hit it well,” Cabrera said. “It was a great round. I was hoping to have a round below par today and ended up having a great round, and I really did hit it well, especially on the second nine.”

Cabrera’s play over the years at Quail Hollow mirrors his hit-or-miss history on the PGA Tour. He finished third in 2010 but hasn’t been inside the top 70 in four other starts. “It’s a course that let’s me hit driver a lot and for that reason it probably fits my game well, and that’s probably why I play well here,” Cabrera said of the 7,562-yard layout.

Rose is making just his ninth start of the 2013-14 season because of right shoulder tendinitis early in the season, and is coming off a tie for eighth at last week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans for his third top-10. He rose up the leaderboard with a 67 Friday.

“I’ve been feeling good for a number of weeks now and feeling good on the driving range for at least a month,” Rose said. “Sometimes it’s a lag effect before it shows up on the golf course, and that’s beginning to show up.” Rose, ranked 10th in the world, is still in search of his first Wells Fargo top-20 in his sixth appearance, though he professes to like the layout.

“It’s a championship golf course and you have to move the ball both ways off the tee, which I think suits my game, and it’s a good iron-play golf course, which typically suits my game – it hasn’t been sharp this year but it’s coming around,” Rose said. “And the greens are putting well, so I feel like I’m reading them well right now.”

Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.

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