In just about every tournament on the PGA Tour this year, Seamus Power believes he enters a tournament at a disadvantage to the great majority of the field as a PGA Tour rookie.
He is seeing every course for the first time, while players with more experience are already familiar with the intricacies of the layouts that host tour events.
That’s not the case this week.
Because the Wells Fargo Championship has been moved to Eagle Point Golf Club as its normal home, Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, prepares to host the PGA Championship in August, Power is on equal footing with pretty much the rest of the field in regard to course familiarity.
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The Irishman is taking advantage. He shot a 3-under-par 69 in very windy conditions Friday and was tied for the tournament lead at 5-under 139 with tour veteran Billy Hurley III with play winding down Friday night.
“I think this is a great week for rookies because it’s a course that nobody’s seen before,” Power said. “I think that’s one of the toughest things for rookies is you’re playing golf courses that a lot of guys have played, depending on the player, anywhere from 20 to 40 to 50 times. You’re seeing it for the first time and just seeing it on a Tuesday, and it changes between Tuesday and Thursday. Whereas here we’re in the same boat as everyone else, so I think it’s an advantage, or it’s going to feel like more of an advantage for the rookies.”
The start of the second round was delayed three hours because of heavy thunderstorms so about half the field remained on the course when play was due to darkness. The second round will be completed Saturday morning before the cut to the low 70 players and ties is made and players are re-paired. They will likely be grouped in threesomes in an attempt to ensure the third round is completed.
It’s probably not surprising that three other PGA Tour rookies or first-year players were among a group of players just a shot back. Jon Rahm, Grayson Murray and Raffa Cabrera Bello are among the players at 4 under.
Power is already comfortable on the course.
“On this golf course, right from when I got here I feel like I have a good idea where I want to hit it and stuff, so it’s just going to be a matter of executing and hitting it to the spots and staying patient,” Power said. “It’s a golf course you can’t go at all the pins.”
Power, 30, now a Charlotte resident, is a past champion of Coastal Carolina’s General Hackler Championship. He played in the tournament four consecutive years as a member of the East Tennessee State team, finishing outside the top 30 in his first two appearances before tying for 10th in 2009 and tying Pepperdine’s Josh Anderson for medalist honors in 2010 at the TPC Myrtle Beach. That win gave him a single victory in each of his four college seasons.
He and three-time major champion Padraig Harrington represented Ireland in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
Power grew up playing often-windy links golf in Ireland.
“You just have to come to terms with the ball going distances you’re not normally going to hit,” Power said. “I think just growing up, being used to that, and being used to flighting the ball up and down, maybe right to left and left to right, I think it does help. It’s a little different here on this type of golf course in this wind. You’re trying to land it the perfect distance. Where links golf, if you get the shape right and the flight right, you can usually run it up there somewhere close.”
Winds exceeding 20 mph with stronger gusts made Eagle Point play extremely difficult Friday, with the one saving grace for the players being the 1.75 inches of rain that fell on the course prior to the start of play, softening greens that had been firm and fast through Thursday to give players more opportunities to stop balls on greens.
The wind was strong enough to blow some balls into motion on several occasions on Eagle Point’s fast and sloping greens. Rahm was about to attempt a 20-foot birdie putt on his final hole – the par-4 ninth – when his ball was blown 3 feet farther from the hole, and he had to wait before putting out because his ball was oscillating so much.
“I had a foot for par and the ball was just oscillating a lot, it was vibrating,” Rahm said. “It happened on a couple other holes. It’s on the verge of the ball moving more often than it probably has today, but luckily I got through it.”
Rahm, and likely some others at the top of the leaderboard, embraced the difficult conditions Friday.
“I certainly enjoy days like this,” Rahm said. “It kind of leaves a little room for imagination in a couple shots, and I feel like it’s a true test where the good players will probably end up doing better, or whoever’s playing better is going to shine a little more than people who are not playing as good.”