- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 4, 2009

Rod Pampling felt his game wasn’t too far away. A return to a familiar and comfortable course was just the antidote.

The Australian shot a 64 - Friday’s best score - to surge to 9 under at the midpoint of the AT&T; National.

That left Pampling a shot behind tournament host Tiger Woods at Congressional Country Club.

“I’ve been playing well for the last month and a half,” Pampling said. “It just hadn’t come together.”

Lucky, then, that a trip to Bethesda was in the offing. Pampling tied for third in last year’s AT&T; National and has finished in the top 20 in three career events at Congressional.

Pampling’s efficient play is well-suited to the course. He had seven birdies and a bogey Friday and has hit 30 of 36 greens through two rounds.

“It’s a shot-maker’s golf course, and I enjoy the challenge of actually having to play golf shots instead of just getting up and hitting it hard,” Pampling said.

Pampling made enough shots to work his way into contention for the first time in a while. He has one top-10 finish all year - a tie for ninth at Doral in March - but has made cuts steadily the past two months.

“Everything has been nice; [I] just have haven’t been able to score,” Pampling said. “So thankfully it’s finally starting to happen. We were trying to be as patient as we could.”

Appleby settles in

Another Aussie with a penchant for solid play at Congressional is Stuart Appleby, who recorded top-10 finishes in the 2005 Booz Allen Classic and the 2007 AT&T; National.

Despite an oft-shaky season, Appleby is again in contention here.

The 38-year-old followed an opening 66 with a 69, securing back-to-back rounds in the 60s for the first time all year. Appleby, who won the Kemper Open across the street at Avenel in 1998, missed the cut in five of his past six events. In the other, he tied for 72nd at the Memorial.

“It’s much better than I’ve been playing,” said Appleby, who had three birdies and two bogeys Friday. “I have a job on the weekend that pays, and it’s been a long time since I had one of those.”

Lee’s perspective

The frustration crescendoed a week ago at the Travelers Championship, a second straight missed cut that forced 18-year-old Danny Lee to take stock a little more than two months after turning pro.

He talked with his parents, who emphasized what he was doing was merely a sport - a soothing message Lee carried with him in the first two rounds this week.

“When I had a really bad shot, I’d get mad at it, and I just laughed at it [this week],” said Lee, who fired a 67 to reach 5 under. “I think that helps me a lot.”

It was an adjustment that could be anticipated for a player who won the European Tour’s Johnnie Walker Classic as an amateur earlier this year but also a bit of a surprise for a teenager still adapting to life on tour.

“Until the last week, it was really hard, but this week somehow it’s really easy for me,” Lee said of his approach. “So I guess it’s not that hard.”

Director: Come early

Deluged by complaints about Friday’s traffic issues, tournament director Greg McLaughlin suggested fans arrive earlier to avoid lengthy delays.

“I think today was the largest crowd they have had in the history of [golf in the D.C. area],” said McLaughlin, who estimated Friday’s attendance at between 45,000 and 48,000. “When you bring nearly 50,000 people to a golf course in the middle of a community, you’re going to have some logistical issues getting in and out.”

Staff writer Barker Davis contributed to this report.

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