Former Mansfield High School standout Martin Flores, looking for his first PGA Tour victory, shot a 4-under 68 Friday and is tied for the lead at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C.
Angel Cabrera shot a 69 to share the lead at 9-under 135 with Flores, who, in his fourth full season on the PGA Tour, has never finished in the top three.
Flores, a 32-year-old former Oklahoma standout who plays out of Dallas, couldn’t ask for a better start, and his finish wasn’t too bad, either. Flores began his second round birdie-eagle when he holed out with a wedge from 105 yards in the 11th fairway. He added a pair of birdies late in his round.
Flores rarely flashes any emotion on the course and stayed true to his personality after holing out for an eagle from the fairway on the par-4 11th hole.
“I’m pretty chill, you know,” said Flores, the 226th-ranked player in the world. “I may not be that way on the inside but outwardly it looks like that a lot of the time. Overall, I don’t get too up or too down. It’s a tough, tough game and you get beat up a lot.”
It was that even personality that helped him weather a double-bogey 6 on the first hole Friday and still finish strong.
Flores said now the goal is to put four solid rounds together, something he’s not accomplished on Tour.
It was the first time Cabrera had at least a share of the 36-hole lead on the PGA Tour since the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont. The last time he was part of the lead after any round was in the 2013 Masters.
With one of the most powerful and reliable swings in golf, the mystery about the 44-year-old Argentine is that his only two on the PGA Tour are majors – Oakmont for the U.S. Open, and Augusta National when he won the Masters in a playoff in 2009.
“I’m of course happy to be in position to win this tournament, but every time I go out and play, I’m hoping to win,” Cabrera said. “It’s difficult to know exactly when you’re going to play well. I don’t think anybody knows when they’re going to play well.”
They were at 9-under 135, one shot ahead of Justin Rose, who had a 67.
Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy went the other direction.
Mickelson, one shot out of the lead to start the second round and perfect conditions ahead of him, seemed to miss every putt that he made on Thursday. He had a 75 and fell seven shots out of the lead.
“I can’t believe the difference in putting from yesterday to today,” Mickelson said. “Yesterday, I saw every ball go in the hole. And today I couldn’t get them to fall and was three-putting, which is funny because the greens today were so perfect. … I struggled today. I don’t have any great reason. It didn’t feel far off.
“I just struggled getting the ball in the hole.”
So did McIlroy, starting with a three-putt from 18 feet on the second hole. He drove behind a tree on the third hole and hit into a bush on the fourth hole, both times taking a penalty drop and making double bogey. He wound up with a 76 and made the cut on the number at 1-over 145.
McIlroy missed five putts from 6 feet or closer.
“I just didn’t have my game today,” McIlroy said. “Off the tee it was good. I didn’t get the ball close enough. My putting didn’t feel as comfortable as it did yesterday.”
The 16th hole sized up his day. McIlroy blasted a tee shot beyond the crest of the hill, a 375-yard drive that left him a simple wedge to the green. He wound up making bogey when he missed from just inside 4 feet.
The biggest turnaround in the other direction belonged to Brendon de Jonge, who grew up in Zimbabwe and now lives in Charlotte. He opened with an 80, and followed that by tying the course record at Quail Hollow with a 62. Now he’s tied with Mickelson.
“Strange game,” de Jonge said.
The leaderboard was filled with players trying to win for the first time. Shawn Stefani had a 68 and was two shots behind, while Kevin Kisner had a 66 and was three back.
And there are plenty of major champions who haven’t been heard from much over the last few years.
Martin Kaymer (2010 PGA Championship) had his second straight round of 69. Stewart Cink (2009 British Open) salvaged bogey from the water on the 17th and finished with a birdie for a 70. They were in the group at 6-under 138. Geoff Ogilvy (2006 U.S. Open) had seven birdies in his round of 67 and was four shots behind.
Briefly• Champions Tour: Bernhard Langer birdied the final six holes for a share of the lead with Bart Bryant in the Insperity Invitational in The Woodlands. Langer matched Bryant at 6-under 66. Defending champion Esteban Toledo was a stroke back. Last year, he became the first Mexican winner in Champions Tour history.
• European Tour: Panuphol Pittayarat of Thailand birdied two of his last three holes for a 4-under 68 to maintain a one-stroke lead after the second round of The Championship at Laguna National in Singapore.
• Web.com Tour: Max Homa posted scores of 67-68 for a 9-under 135 total and a three-shot clubhouse lead in the rain-delayed South Georgia Classic in Valdosta, Ga. North Texas ex Carlos Ortiz was at 10 under with six holes to play.