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Tambellini maintains lead at Wichita Open

Nationwide Tour caddies wear yellow bibs during tournaments if their golfer is in the top 25 of the season money list.

It's been that way since 2007, a special feature that highlights a golfer's ultimate goal of advancing to the PGA Tour.

There will be plenty of yellow surrounding Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open leader Roger Tambellini today at Crestview Country Club. Tambellini, 36, fired a 5-under-par 66 in the second round to maintain a one-shot lead in the $600,000 tournament on Crestview's North course.

Sixty-five of the 156 golfers that started play Thursday advanced to the weekend, including Derby resident Woody Austin. The three-time PGA Tour winner finished right above the cut line at 2-under 140.

Tambellini, of Scottsdale, Ariz., is 103rd in earnings and won't be accompanied by a looper in yellow. But with leading money winner Mathew Goggin, No. 2 Troy Kelly and No. 6 Kyle Thompson just one shot off Tambellini's 36-hole total of 12-under 130, the brightness of the final groups might require shades.

"Thursday, Friday, even Saturday, you just play as well as you possibly can," said Tambellini, who regained sole possession of the lead with a birdie on the 456-yard seventh hole late in his round. "I don't think you have to focus too much on leaderboards. You can't do anything about what the other guys are doing."

Tambellini, a veteran of three PGA Tour seasons, certainly doesn't have to defend himself. To his credit, he's closed out two of his three career Nationwide victories when leading after 36 holes.

Those nipping at Tambellini's heels appear to be feeling pretty confident, though.

Kelly, who will be in the final pairing with Tambellini, finished a weather-delayed first round Friday morning with a 67. He then carded a 64 to match Thompson and two others for low round of the day.

The Tacoma, Wash., native, who pitched in for eagle at the par-4 11th, has two runner-up finishes this year.

"I've been playing very steady," Kelly said. "I just feel like if I can drive it like I've been driving it and keep doing the things I'm doing, hopefully I can keep it going."

Kelly finished one shot behind Thompson last week at The Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, N.C. Thompson zipped around Crestview with a bogey-free round that left him in position to make a run at back-to-back titles.

"I've got so much confidence right now," said Thompson, a 32-year-old South Carolina graduate who was congratulated by Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall after his round. "I just feel really comfortable in my skin. I don't feel jittery or jumpy at all out there like I might have had I not won or had I not been playing well."

Then there's Goggin, an Australian who won the tour's season opener in Panama. He backed up a 66 with a 65 that included a 4-under 31 on his closing holes — Crestview's typically more difficult front nine.

"Anytime you're having a good day, it's nice to finish it off and not lose any shots coming in," Goggin said. "To be in this position, I'm happy to go home, have a rest and have at it tomorrow."

Three other golfers in the top 25 — No. 16 Scott Brown, No 24 Martin Flores and No. 25 Andrew Buckle — are part of a quartet tied for fifth with Jin Park at 8-under. That means the final four pairings of the third round will include at least one caddie in yellow.

Tambellini didn't seem the least bit worried. So far, the breaks have mostly gone his way. He made just one bogey Friday after driving into a bunker on the par-4 first. At No. 7, a dogleg hole that long hitters can take advantage with an as-the-crow-flies, 290-yard carry over water, Tambellini flew his tee shot onto a cart path. It skipped and rolled on the green, 18 feet from the hole.

"We weren't really sure if it hit the cart path or not, but that was really fun," Tambellini said. "I've never done that before."

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