- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2003

It’s not often that the golfer leading a PGA Tour event after two rounds goes relatively unnoticed.

Of course, it’s also not often that another player in the field shoots a 62.

David Duval might have grabbed all the attention at TPC at Avenel yesterday for his sparkling, tournament-record round of 9 under, but at the end of the day Rory Sabbatini’s name remained atop the Capital Open leader board.

Sabbatini, a top-75 money winner each of the last three years, strung together a solid if unspectacular 5-under 66, good enough to give him a two-stroke lead heading into the weekend.

“I played solidly,” the South African-born player said. “Overall, I found that the course actually played very easy for me. I really haven’t had much difficulty out there.”

Sabbatini, 27, got off to a quick start on the back side, nailing birdies on three of his first five holes. He suffered a slight hiccup with bogeys on Nos.15 and 16 but came back strong on the front nine to post four birdies, including three in a row on Nos.5, 6 and 7.

His last birdie, on the par-4 seventh, was perhaps his best. After leaving an 8-iron short and right of the green, Sabbatini chipped in from 55 feet.

He will join Notah Begay III and Tom Gillis in a final group that tees off at 9:30 a.m. today as tournament organizers try to squeeze everyone in before an expected thunderstorm hits town.

“It’s something that we play through all the time,” Sabbatini said. “It’s going to happen, and there’s no way around it. I’m just going to go out there and continue to rely on hitting the ball in the fairway and putting the ball on the green.”

See you in ‘04?

Hal Sutton, Bernhard Langer and Robert Allenby made for an intriguing pairing, and not only because the first two are in the hunt heading into the weekend. Sutton and Langer could be serious adversaries one year from now as captains of the 2004 Ryder Cup teams.

Sutton, who backed up Thursday’s round of 68 with a 69 to move into a sixth-place tie, was named captain of the U.S. team last fall. Langer, who fired a 68 to move into a tie for ninth place, is expected to get the nod for the Europeans sometime this summer.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about it because I believe I’m one of those that might get a chance,” said Langer, whose candidacy got a huge boost last month when chief competitor Ian Woosnam backed him. “I have to make that decision in a few weeks at the British Open, whether I want to be considered or not. We’ll take it from there.”

Sutton didn’t bring the topic up with Langer much the last two days, except for a brief inquiry Thursday morning. Langer replied that he was still thinking about submitting his formal application for the event, to be held at Oakland Hills outside Detroit.

Said Sutton: “The conversation ended at that.”

Rare moment for Gillis

Most spectators at Avenel wouldn’t know Tom Gillis from Dobie Gillis. The latter, though, never found himself in the final group on Saturday at a PGA Tour event.

Gillis, a 34-year-old tour rookie who has made the cut in only two of his last seven starts, produced his second straight round of 68 to join David Duval, Notah Begay III and Niclas Fasth in a four-way tie for second place.

This will be the first time Gillis has played in the final group. While a conservatively solid weekend would ensure a nice paycheck for a man whose career earnings are a scant $54,079, he won’t be afraid to take a chance at the ultimate prize: a PGA Tour victory.

“The way I look at it, I’ve got 14 more chances to win [this season] to keep my card,” Gillis said. “So the way I do that is try to win every week. I could care less if I have a big check because when it’s all said and done, people aren’t going to remember me from making a big check in the Kemper [sic], only if I win.”

Local connections

Local favorite Fred Funk carded his second straight 70 to make the cut for only the fourth time in the last nine years. The Takoma Park native and former University of Maryland golf coach birdied three holes on the back nine but bogeyed the 18th to fall into a nine-way tie for 24th.

Fellow area native Michael Muehr didn’t fare as well. The Georgetown resident, who is attempting to come back from stage three melanoma, followed up Thursday’s 72 with a disappointing 76.

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