Rocket Mortgage Classic 2019: Nate Lashley Leads by 1 Stroke After Round 2

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2019

Nate Lashley drives on the second tee during the second round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic golf tournament, Friday, June 28, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

After making the field as a late entrant, Nate Lashley maintained his lead at the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic from Detroit Golf Club in Michigan on Friday.

After a nine-under 63 in Thursday's first round, Lashley shot a five-under 67 in the second round, and he holds a one-shot lead over Cameron Champ entering the weekend.

Here is a look at the leaderboard through two rounds with the full leaderboard available at PGATour.com (second-round score in parentheses):

1. Nate Lashley: -14 (67)

2. Cameron Champ: -13 (65)

3. Charles Howell III: -12 (67)

T4. Ryan Armour: -11 (69)

T4. J.T. Poston: -11 (63)

T6. Peter Malnati: -10 (66)

T6. Byeong Hun An: -10 (66)

T6. Rory Sabbatini: -10 (69)

T6. Joaquin Niemann: -10 (66)

T6. Harris English: -10 (68)

Lashley recorded six birdies and one bogey in the second round and remains in strong pursuit of his first PGA Tour win.

Making Lashley's contention even more remarkable is the fact that he got into the tournament as an alternate after failing to qualify, per Stu Pospisil of the Omaha World-Herald:

Stu Pospisil @stuOWH

Nate Lashley, by the way, is playing this week as an alternate who got into the Rocket Mortgage midweek. He had missed in Monday qualifying. Now tied for the lead with five holes left in the second round. @OWHsports

For much of the second round, it looked like Lashley was poised to lose his lead due to the emergence of Champ, who shot a seven-under 65.

Champ carded six birdies and one eagle on the front nine for a 28, which marked the lowest nine-hole score of his PGA career:


-8 on the front nine. 🐦 @Cameron__Champ's 28 marks the lowest nine hole score of his career. #LiveUnderPar https://t.co/PsIz5l6duB

According to PGA Tour Communications, Champ also tied the lowest nine-hole score on tour this season:

PGA TOUR Communications @PGATOURComms

Cameron Champ birdies the par-3 ninth to open R2 of the @RocketClassic with a 28, tying the lowest nine-hole score on the @PGATOUR this season. Other 28s: Carlos Ortiz, front/R2/@Desert_Classic Chez Reavie, back/R3/@TravelersChamp

Champ was unable to continue his dominant form on the back nine, which allowed Lashley to claw his way back to the top. Over his final nine holes, Champ managed just one birdie and two bogeys for a 37.

Meanwhile, Lashley went to work. After opening on the back nine and playing the first five holes at even par, Lashley birdied Nos. 15 and 17 to keep pace with Champ:


🐦🐦🐦 today. @NateLashley is two back @RocketClassic. #QuickHits https://t.co/LBEku2imvX

Lashley birdied Nos. 1 and 2, and he broke a tie with Champ atop the leaderboard with his final birdie of the day on the par-five seventh:


From last man in the field to 36-hole leader? @NateLashley gets to 14-under. #LiveUnderPar https://t.co/0HOupQQGrK

While Champ represents Lashley's closest competition, he is far from the only golfer within striking distance. Veteran Charles Howell III is just two shots back at 12 under after posting a five-under 67 Friday.

The 40-year-old is in search of his fourth PGA Tour win, and he helped his cause by holing out from the bunker on what was arguably the shot of the day:


😲 Charles Howell III pulls to within one of the lead. #LiveUnderPar https://t.co/C78YjqZURa

Lashley must also keep tabs on J.T. Poston, who is three strokes back at 11 under. Poston carded the low score of the day with a nine-under 63, and he is gaining momentum toward his first career win.

The Rocket Mortgage Classic features no shortage of big names, and while most of them are not near the top of the leaderboard, several remain in contention.

Hideki Matsuyama is in the hunt at nine under after a five-under 67 in the second round. Also, Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler are both sitting at eight under, as they have both finished with a four-under 68 in each of the first two rounds.

Fowler would be a bit closer to the leaders if his bid for an ace on the par-three fifth hadn't come up just short:


Dialed in. @RickieFowler came this close to an ace on No. 5. 😦 #LiveUnderPar https://t.co/kNVUyHZIgf

This tournament is especially important for players who have yet to qualify for The Open Championship in three weeks since two golfers will earn their way into the field by virtue of their performance.

Lashley, Champ and Poston are among the golfers who have yet to earn an exemption into the British Open, and that will put even more pressure on them to maintain their high level of play over the weekend.