- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2014

Oliver Goss walked up to the clubhouse at Congressional Country Club before his first round on Thursday and was stopped by a security guard. The moment surprised him; in previous events, the 20-year-old Australian would frequently share he was playing in the tournament, and a mere handshake and an apology would make do.

This time, the wink and the nod weren’t enough. And because Goss had not yet retrieved the proper credentials from the PGA Tour to allow him access before his scheduled tee time – he was, after all, entering only his second week as a professional – Goss resorted to a brilliant, if not trusty, solution: He simply walked around the building and went in a back door.

Consecutive weekends qualifying for a tournament on a sponsor’s exemption will not make Goss a household name. Rounds like the one he had Friday at the Quicken Loans National, however, could go a long way in defining the accomplished former amateur’s career.

Goss shot a 5-under-par 66 to settle in atop the leaderboard, where, at the end of the day, he found himself in a four-way tie entering the weekend. Marc Leishman, Ricky Barnes and Patrick Reed all patched together remarkable rounds on Friday, marking only the second time this season a PGA Tour event has featured four co-leaders after 36 holes.

“I didn’t really have too many expectations,” said Goss, who shot a 1-over-par 141 a week ago to miss the cut at the Travelers Championship in his first professional event. “Obviously, I wanted to make the cut. Missing the cut last week, I was a little bit disappointed, but [I’m] coming into this week open-minded and just see what happens. That I’m atop the leaderboard, I couldn’t be more pleased.”

Goss, the runner-up in the 2013 U.S. Amateur, played two collegiate seasons at Tennessee and was the low amateur at the Masters in April. After finishing 148 out of 156 players at the U.S. Open two weeks ago, he made the decision to turn professional, then accepted a sponsor’s exemption to make his debut at the Travelers Championship.

Despite hitting only four of 14 fairways, Goss shot a bogey-free round on Friday, beginning his day by dropping his approach on the par-4 1st within five feet of the pin. Starting with the par-5 9th, he had four birdies in eight holes, and his 32 on the back nine was the best performance of any player in the field.

Leishman, a fellow Australian, also had a bogey-free round to hold a share of the lead overnight for the first time since last year’s Masters. The highlight of his round happened on the 9th, when he holed out from 127 yards with a sand wedge.

“I pulled my drive and basically had no shot,” Leishman said. “I had a tree in my backswing [on my second shot] and a bad lie in the rough and couldn’t get it up to the fairway. I had to lay up again after my lay up, which is never fun. … It’s a pretty unlikely birdie, but they don’t happen very often, and you have to make the most of them when they do.”

Barnes held a share of second place after the first round on Thursday, but was inconsistent on Friday and couldn’t take advantage of five birdies. Reed was the last to make his way to the top when he birdied three of his final five holes to for a second consecutive 68.

“It was another solid day,” Reed said. “I put myself in the right position I needed going into the weekend. Just one of the rounds I kept on plugging along.”

Stuart Appleby and Hudson Swafford, who didn’t make the field until Wednesday, enter Saturday one stroke back and tied for fifth. Justin Rose, the 2010 champion when the event was held in suburban Philadelphia, posted the day’s lowest round when he shot a 65.

Greg Chalmers, the first-round leader, shot 7-over on Friday to fall to 2-over and just make the cut. Among those who didn’t was Tiger Woods, whose first tournament in over three months ended prematurely when he finished with a 7-over 149.

“Even though I missed the cut by four shots, the fact that I was even able to play [was a positive],” said Woods, who has only missed the cut 10 times since joining the PGA Tour in 1997 and not in the last two years. “I came back four weeks earlier than we thought I could. I had no setbacks. I got my feel for playing tournament golf. I made a ton of simple little mistakes. … Those are the little things I can correct, which is nice.”

Jason Day, Jason Dufner, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els, who won the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional, all missed the cut. Among those spared was Jordan Spieth, who, playing with Day and Woods, entered the day 3-over but salvaged his weekend with a 1-under 70 on Friday.

While some of the more accomplished players were foiled by the course, Goss was among those who navigated it well. It’s not too unfamiliar, he said, with the experiences he has had as an amateur.

“The main different is you’re playing against the best in the world,” Goss said. “The depth is just crazy. Obviously, you’re playing for a purse, but honestly, I don’t feel that much different out there. You’re still playing the game of golf, and that’s all I’m really feeling at the moment.”

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