Fridays at Crestview Country Club have worked out well for Nathan Tyler both times he’s played in the Air Capital Classic.
As the tournament’s 36-hole leader, Tyler is eager to see what another Saturday and Sunday have in store.
Tyler, a 30-year-old from Tucson, Ariz., birdied four of the final five holes en route to a 6-under-par 65 that gave him a two-shot lead in the $650,000 Web.com Tour event on Crestview’s North course.
Tyler set the pace for 65 golfers who shot 1-under par or better to advance to weekend play. The former University of Arizona golfer posted a two-round total of 10-under 132 to overtake first-round leader Alex Prugh (71) and Monday qualifier Jace Long (63), who are tied for second at 8 under.
The casualties included Web.com money leader Michael Putnam. Putnam was trying to become the first player in tour history to win three consecutively scheduled tournaments. But he shot rounds of 73 and 72 and became the 33rd golfer with multiple wins in a season to come to Wichita and leave without a trophy.
Meanwhile, Tyler was just happy to be back at Crestview this week. He tied for 23rd three years ago after firing a second-round 63. But this year, Tyler has played on the All-American Gateway Tour, and landed a sponsor’s exemption for the Air Capital Classic as the mini-tour’s money leader.
“It’s my first tournament out here (on the Web.com) this year, so to be in the lead is more than I expected,” said Tyler, a three-time winner on the AAGT this year. “I’m happy to be here and hopefully I can keep it going on the weekend.”
Fueled by tall, healthy rough and variable winds, Crestview’s 6,959-yard layout played almost 1½ strokes more difficult for the field through the first two rounds than in 2012. But Tyler, who played his sixth competitive round on the North course Friday, attacked it with a strategy to flourish on the back nine.
“Me and my caddie talked about it yesterday,” Tyler said. “We shot 2 under on the front, which is a harder nine, and 31 on the back. So we knew there was something back there.”
It was something that Long, who recently finished his collegiate career at Missouri and is making his pro debut, found as well with a back-nine 31. But Prugh, who led by two after a 63 on Thursday, failed to find the formula, finishing with two birdies and two bogeys on Friday.
“I didn’t make the putts,” said Prugh, 24th in tour earnings this season. “I lipped out a lot of putts high and low. There was also just a difference in wind.
“The wind was coming out of a little different direction and a little stronger, so it was just that fraction harder to get to certain pins.”
Prugh still managed to land a spot in the final third-round pairing with Tyler at noon Saturday. Prugh and Long, who shot 68 in Monday’s qualifier at Newton’s Sand Creek Station to earn a spot in the field, are one shot in front of a group of six golfers that include former Oklahoma State golfer Kevin Tway.
Tway, whose dad, Bob, won the 1986 PGA Championship, carded a 65 despite bogeying the par-5 18th.
“I like coming from behind,” Tway said. “There is a little less pressure, which allows you to go get the golf course.”
Crestview has always been a birdie-friendly course for Web.com competitors since the tournament moved there in 2001. But this year, it has bitten back.
Former Wichita State golfer Dustin Garza felt the pain late Friday afternoon. Garza clawed his way into a share of second at 8 under, but made a double bogey at the par-3 eighth and bogeyed the par-4 ninth on his final two holes, settling for a 71 that left him tied for 13th.
So far, Tyler has enjoyed a smooth ride.
“I’m just trying to keep it in front of me,” he said. “That’s it, really.”