Sponsor invite Bryan maintains Puntacana lead

Sports

PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic — Wesley Bryan went from comfortably leading at the start to needing a big finish at the end Friday in the Corales Puntacana Championship, and he got every bit of that for a 6-under 66 to move back in front of Justin Lower.

Bryan was tied for the lead in the morning when he reached the par-5 seventh hole to begin his eagle-birdie-birdie finish. Lower, playing three groups behind, did well to stay in range with two birdies over the last three holes for a 64.

Bryan, playing on a sponsor exemption, was at 15-under 129 to set the tournament 36-hole record by 2 shots. It also marked his personal best for 36 holes.

He believes he stole a birdie on the par-3 ninth, his final hole, with a 30-foot putt that had what he thought was 10 feet of break.

“Putter is feeling good in the hands and hitting the ball fairly well. And off the tee has been nice,” Bryan said. “Been a good couple of days.”

It also has been OK for Lower, who already was off to a good start this season with a tie for third in the Mexico Open a month ago.

Lower had a career-best 10 birdies Friday, which tied the tournament record. He had a few wobbles on his second nine that slowed his progress. But he goes into the weekend in a final pairing with Bryan and a comfortable margin over everyone chasing them.

Greyson Sigg twice ran off three birdies in a row for a 65 that left him 4 shots behind Bryan. The group another shot back included Bill Haas, a former FedEx Cup champion who has gone nine years since his last victory.

Haas’ career was slowed in 2018 when he was the passenger in a car driven by a friend, Mark Gibello, that crashed along the winding Los Angeles streets near Riviera Country Club. Gibello was killed in the crash.

Haas hasn’t been quite the same since, and he is hopeful of a big week to restore confidence.

“We all believe in ourselves, but then results is what propels us forward to having a good week the next week and the next week,” Haas said. “If you keep having poor results, it’s pretty easy to believe in that. So it would mean a lot. It would just be nice to have a solid weekend and not go the other way.

“I would love to shoot a good round tomorrow and then have a good front nine and then all of a sudden look up on Sunday and be in the mix and then see what happens.”

Charley Hoffman, who lost in a playoff in the Phoenix Open in February, had a 68 and was in the group tied for fourth.

Nicolai Hojgaard, who briefly had the lead Saturday in his Masters debut, came down to the Dominican Republic and will be leaving early. He missed the cut with rounds of 73-72.

Kevin Chappell also missed the cut, but not before leaving his mark on the resort. Chappell made an albatross on the par-5 fourth hole, the fourth time this year a player made 2 on a par 5. The others were Jake Knapp in the American Express, Shane Lowry at Torrey Pines and Robby Shelton at the Valspar Championship.

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