Braden Bailey shoots 65, wins Korn Ferry qualifier

Published 5:11 pm Friday, September 27, 2019

Braden Bailey took his already formidable game to the next level Friday at the Korn Ferry Tour Stage 1 qualifier with a lights-out performance that might well serve as a closing argument to get him a sponsor exemption into the upcoming Houston Open.

Starting the final round three shots off the lead in seventh place, Bailey authored a bogey-free, seven-under-par 65 over the Gary Player Course at The Woodlands. The sizzling finish enabled him to win by one stroke at 16-under-272 over Lamar ex MJ Daffue and Derek Oland of Montgomery.

The victory easily accomplished Bailey’s No. 1 goal of moving on to the Stage 2 qualifier Nov. 6-9 at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney. Beyond that, it had to send a strong message to Houston Open folks wrestling with whether a kid fresh out of Baylor merits a treasured berth in their PGA event two weeks hence.

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“I would hope it helps my chances,” said the former Port Neches-Groves standout. “Playing in that tournament is something I thought a lot about when I was growing up and going to Houston to watch it. It would be a great experience to do that in front of hometown fans.”

Bailey, who got some tips on playing the course from Daffue during a Tuesday practice round, showed he’s a quick learner. Using his driver off the tee only four times, he gave himself numerous birdie opportunities and cashed in seven of them.

“The big difference was getting some putts to fall,” he said. “I have been hitting the ball really well all summer, but I haven’t been getting everything I should out of how well I’m hitting it. Today the putts fell and it showed on the scorecard.”

Bailey served notice early that it could be a special day, chipping in for birdie from 45 feet on the first hole. His next two birdies came from 30 feet and 20 feet on holes number 3 and 5. After that, the birdies fell from 5 feet on 7 and 9, from 10 feet on 10 and from inches on 16 after putting for an eagle.

His winning shot, however, was a 20-foot par save on 17. It was the only time he had to scramble and it provided the margin of victory over Daffue and Oland.

Bailey, who played the final 45 holes without a bogey, only needed to finish in the top 23 to advance to the second stage. But he said his mindset from day one was to win.

“I treated it just like a regular tournament,” he said. “I figured my game wouldn’t be as sharp if I was out there just thinking about doing whatever was necessary to advance. I wanted to win.

“I came here playing well and thought I would have a good chance. It was just a real solid week of golf.”

About the only downer for Bailey was that there is no money awarded in a Korn Ferry Stage 1 qualifier. In this case, however, he’ll happily settle for the residual value.

Landry drops from lead to 21st

Little went right Friday for Andrew Landry as he tumbled from co-leader of the PGA Tour Safeway Open in Napa, California to a tie for 21st.

Less than 24 hours after he rolled in seven birdies on the way to a bogey-free 65, the Port Neches-Groves ex could manage only one birdie while shooting 74. With a 36-hole total of 139, he trails leader Bryson DeChambeau by seven strokes.

Things were even worse for Chris Stroud. Rusty from a layoff to deal with back issues, Stroud followed a Thursday 76 with a 78. His 154 bettered only one player in the 133-man field. Stroud managed just one birdie Friday and three for the tournament.

It was also a bad day for former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. In position to make his first PGA Tour cut after opening with a 70, Romo stumbled to 78. His 148 was well off the cut of 142, meaning he’ll be in the CBS football booth Sunday with Jim Nantz.