Paul Apyan surges as low scores abound at Greater Cedar Rapids Open

Rain Thursday night made for plentiful low scores

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MARION — Paul Apyan did not lead the Greater Cedar Rapids open after day one, but the defending champion surged ahead Friday to lead the tournament for the fourth time in the last five rounds.

2014 champion Mark Blakefield, however, surged ahead as well, and the previous two winners are tied for the lead going into the final day of the tournament.

Apyan shot a 10-under 62 Friday, a day that saw several players shoot in the mid-60s on the par-72 course. Apyan’s round included eight birdies and one eagle. Blakefield shot a 61 with 11 birdies on the day.

The low scores bring Apyan and Blakefield to 13-under, 131 through 36 holes, through the first two rounds of the tournament.

Most of the success Apyan found came on the front nine.

He birdied holes one through four, as well as holes six, seven, and nine. Only one birdie came on a par three.

He said he put himself in a position for the low round by hitting well from the tee.

“Played really solid all day,” Apyan said. “I did the same as yesterday, tried to keep it on the right side of the holes.”

The key factor in his low round, he said, was putting. Though he missed makeable putts early — Apyan started from hole 10 — he made a 12-foot birdie putt on 18, and then several putts ranging from a foot to 25 feet.

“I hit it really well all day and just stayed patient, there’s definitely a low number out there and I knew that with the rain we got last night,” Apyan said. “When you get done, go to the next shot and that’s all you can do.”

The rain softened the greens, as well as the rest of the course.

The ball played well off the fareways, and the soft greens allowed for exceptionally responsive putts.

“Golf becomes difficult when the course is hard and fast,” Nate Severin, the Hunters Ridge PGA professional, said. “When it’s soft, the ball will be grabbed by the green and spin ... when it’s soft you can be much more aggressive and play more aggressive lines.”

The soft course allowed several players to make a charge. Jon Josefowski shot 8-under to reach 10-under for the tournament and climb to second on the leader board.

First-round leader Jared Howard of Dublin, Ohio, faded to a tie for ninth after the second round.

He shot 1-under on the day for a two-round score of 136, five strokes back of Apyan.

Howard bogeyed the third and eighth holes and double bogeyed the fifth.

He did have five birdies on the day — four on the back nine holes — but the bogeys proved costly to overcome.

A trio of players were tied for sixth following Friday’s round.

Among them are Juan Diego Fernandez and Jordan Elsen, Apyan’s playing partner Friday.

Fernandez kept consistent with his Friday outing, shooting a 4-under 68 to go with his 67 from Thursday.

“I felt like it played easier than yesterday,” Fernandez said. “I’m just going to try to keep making birdies, and hopefully no one can catch me.”

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