By Billy Watkins
Davis Riley of Hattiesburg still isn’t happy with his driver.
He “didn’t have it” Thursday but managed to shoot 66 for a share of the lead at the Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson.
But his wayward tee shots caught up with him a bit Friday. His 1-under 71 left him three shots off the lead entering Saturday’s third round.
Canadian Mackenzie Hughes and Thomas Detry of Belgium are tied for the lead at 10-under. Sepp Straka’s 66 placed him one behind. Three are tied at two back: Garrick Higgo, Scott Stallings and Mark Hubbard.
Riley had a morning tee time Friday after playing in the afternoon Thursday.
“It was a quick turnaround, so I hit the bed immediately and tried to get as much sleep as possible,” said Riley, 25, looking for his first PGA Tour victory. “I was pretty tired after yesterday. It was a pretty tough day with the wind and fast greens, so just tried to recoup and regroup and get ready to go early this morning.
“I’m optimistic because there’s a lot of things I’m doing well. When I have hit the fairway or put myself in a good position, I’ve taken advantage of it. I think (my driving) is a pretty simple fix, just getting some good start lines and going from there. But, no, the game is in a good spot, and looking forward to making a tweak or two here after the round and be ready to go.”
Defending champion Sam Burns, a member of last weekend’s U.S. President’s Cup team, shot a 69 and stands five shots off the lead— well within striking distance.
“Just couldn’t really get much going again today,” Burns said. “I haven’t really made anything the last couple days. I think that’s just kind of stalled me out a little bit. If I could get a little bit of momentum on the greens, could have posted a little bit of a better score today.”
The leaders after two rounds aren’t household names, at least yet.
Detry, 29, played last season on the DP World tour (the former European Tour) and the Korn Ferry Tour. He earned his PGA Tour card just a few weeks ago.
It’s been a whirlwind playing here and overseas.
“ I try to rest a lot,” he explained. “I seem to do lots of workouts, and I took it down a little bit, try to mostly rest, eat healthy, sleep a lot. That’s all I really can do. But it’s true, I’ve (traveled) a lot. I played the Korn Ferry Tour finals the last few weeks, went back (to) London for the BMW PGA at Wentworth, and came back for the Fortinet.
“Luckily, I had a week off last week so I was able to recharge a little bit, but yeah, I’m feeling refreshed now. It’s good.”
Detry finished fifth at the BMW three weeks ago and 12th a week later at the Fortinet Championship in Napa, Calif.
Hughes, who finished tied for sixth at the British Open and tied for 15th at the U.S. Open this past season, fired an impressive 63 Friday.
“I didn’t really have much stress, and had a nice groove going with the irons,” Hughes said. “Hit a lot of close shots. Yeah, just really in control with that. Being in the fairway was important, but when I was in the rough I controlled it really well and gave myself looks.
“Felt good with the putter, which is normally a strength, so if I can start hitting it close and give myself good looks, then it’s going to turn out pretty nice.”
Hughes, 31, turned professional in 2012. His lone PGA Tour victory was at the RSM Classic in 2016.
Hayden Buckley, who grew up in Tupelo, shot 70 Friday and is seven strokes back. His focus has been divided between golf in Jackson and his home in Naples, Fla. As far as he knows, Buckley’s home was spared any flooding.
Five Mississippi golfers missed the cut: Jackson Suber, Brice Wilkinson, Wilson Furr, Joseph Hanko and Chad Ramey.
The tournament runs through Sunday. The winner will receive $1.4 million.