Only it carried the bunker, into native grass that was almost shoulder high in some places. Eventually, after Kropp arrived on the scene of his drive, rules official Zach Thiesing announced he had one minute left to identify his ball before having to declare it lost and return to the tee hitting three.
Fifteen seconds after that, Kropp found his ball, even in casual water, which allowed him a free drop. And in the middle of the native grass, there happened to be a small patch of hardened mud he was allowed to drop onto. From there, he hit a 9-iron “as hard as I could,” that found the green. A two-putt from almost 60 feet secured his 65.
“It was just a good break,” Kropp said.
Russell, who hit his drive down the middle, almost lost a stroke on the hole when he carried the green with his approach and chipped up from a downslope behind the green that left him about eight feet left for his par, a putt he lipped in.
Though he failed to pick up a stroke, even after Kropp’s errant drive, Russell didn’t seem bothered by it a bit as he and Kropp sat down for lunch together.
“I feel pretty good,” he said. “The first round [his 61] was great, but I’ve played pretty solid since.”
Kropp just wants to keep doing what he’s been doing.
“I’ve just made a couple more putts is all, I think,” he said. “I’ve been playing pretty well.”
Final-round tee times begin at 8 this morning. Kropp and Russell go off at 9:30 a.m.
They’re competitors, also friends.
“If we both play great, then we’ll see what happens,” Russell said. “If somebody tears it up, you’re happy for them.”
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