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Corey Conners four strokes behind lead T12

Written by Web.com Tour with files from Golf Canada
Corey Conners (PHOTO BERNARD BRAULT, GOLF CANADA)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Corey Conners is playing in the Web.com Tour’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship this weekend in hopes of grabbing his PGA Tour Card and it seems to be in reach. After recording another round in the 60s on Friday Conners heads into the weekend with a share of 12th at 5-under. The Listowel, Ont. native looks to finish strong this weekend to inch closer to securing his spot on the PGA Tour next year.

It was a windy Friday in Columbus, but not even the wind gusts could stop former PGA TOUR winner Robert Streb from making a statement in the Buckeye State, posting a second-round 3-under 68 to move to 9-under 133 heading into the weekend.

2017 Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada Player of the Year Kramer Hickok sits one back of Streb, followed by a host of players tied at 7-under 135.

“(It feels) a little different,” Streb said of holding the 36-hole lead. “I haven’t done too much of it this year, but it’s nice to be playing well, putting well.  Hopefully, I can keep getting some chances this weekend and see how we do.”

Streb, who entered Friday one stroke back of the lead, ran into trouble early at The Ohio State University Golf Club’s Scarlet Course. After picking up a bogey on his opening hole Thursday, Streb ran into the same fate on Friday, carding a five on the par-4 10th (his first hole of the day).

“I hit it way left,” he said when asked what led to the error. “I got a pretty good break and just basically guessed poorly on the green firmness.  I got through the green (on my approach shot), had a tough chip, and then hit a good one.”

The mistake ended up being the only one of the day for the Kansas State University alum, who kept his scorecard clean for the remainder of the round. Birdies on Nos. 12 and 18 allowed Streb to make the turn at 1-under 34 and join a collection of players who had become bunched atop the leaderboard.

After making par on the first three holes of his second nine, the father-of-three needed something big to build momentum and break away from the rest of the pack.

 That something big came for Streb in the form of an eagle at the par-5 fourth.

“That was nice,” Streb remarked after the round. “I wasn’t sure if I was going to cover the bunker or not.  It covered, I had a pretty good number, and luckily, it landed soft on the green and I had a good putt at it.”

The 2012 Mylan Classic champion would go on to par his remaining five holes, ending the day with a 68.

After finishing at No. 178 in the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup Standings this year, Streb looks to return to the PGA TOUR with a win this week and make up for a 2017-18 season that was full of struggles. The Oklahoma native made just 10 of 29 cuts, picking up a lone top-10 finish at the Barbasol Championship (T10), where he held a share of the 54-hole lead.

Unlike Streb, Hickok’s status for next season has already been determined.

After notching four top-10s, including a runner-up, in his rookie season, the 26-year-old ended the Regular Season at No. 23, earning his first PGA TOUR card at the conclusion of last week’s WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft-Heinz.

“I feel like I’m really just freewheeling it out here this week,” Hickok commented after the first round. “I feel like there are a lot of guys that have a lot more pressure than I do, whether they’re trying to (regain) their PGA TOUR card or they’re trying to get to the PGA TOUR for the first time.  So my mentality is just way different.  I’m really relaxed and just got nothing to lose, so I’m just out there playing the best golf I can.”

That sense of freedom allowed Hickok to continue his strong play into Friday, picking up five birdies alongside two bogeys to finish the day at 3-under 68, moving to 8-under 134 for the tournament.

“It’s tough out there,” Hickok remarked. “You’ve got to be really patient. I hit the driver really well today, which allowed me to put myself in position to score, but even then you can still make a quick bogey.

“The whole game plan is just to limit the mistakes, and I feel if you limit the bogeys, you’ll be able to shoot some low rounds out here. It’s not about making birdies; it’s not a birdie fest, so just limit the mistakes as much as you can and it seems to be helping so far.”

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