E.A. Sports Today

Cream rises in SKCC

Cole-Wigington, Montenegro-Bussey emerge from a crowded leaderboard to hold top two spots heading into Championship Sunday

Ty Cole-Gary Wigington-32
Jesus Montenegro-Layton Bussey-31
Taylor McCollum-Kyle Daugherty-28
Randy Lipscomb-Dane Moore-28
Jackson King-Freeman Fite-27
Brennan Clay-Jeremy McGatha-27
Garrett Burgess-Tanner Wells-27

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – As tight as the logjam was at the top of the Sunny King Charity Classic leaderboard after the opening round, you knew there was going to be separation Saturday.

And the cream definitely rose to the top.

Ty Cole and Gary Wigington turned into the juggernaut everyone expects. Playing what they called their best 18 holes together maybe ever, they shot a record-tying 18-under-par 54 at Cider Ridge and took a one-shot lead over PGA Tour Latinoamerica winner Jesus Montenegro and his local former Jax State teammate Layton Bussey.

The 54 tied the tournament scamble record set here last year by the team that beat them in last year’s historic playoff, Ott and Dalton Chandler.

The leaders’ 32-under 112 for 36 holes positions them well within striking distance of the modern-era benchmark of 40-under-par. In the best ball round at Anniston Country Club that clinched their three titles together, Ty and Twig shot 10-, 13- and 13-under.

“When we go to Anniston typically we don’t have a big strategy; we just go play golf,” Cole said. “If one of us or both of us can birdie the first couple holes it tends to snowball from there when we play in the four-ball part. Hopefully we can hit some good shots early, birdie 1, 2, maybe eagle 3, and let it feed from there.”

As bunched as the leaderboard was after Friday scramble at Silver Lakes — 14 players within four shots of the lead — the top two teams are now four and three shots clear of their nearest challengers.

Championship Sunday could come down to a matter of experience. Wigington has won a record eight Sunny King titles, his last three in a row with Cole (2016-18). Bussey is playing in the Classic for only the second time — and first since he was 14 — and Montenegro is playing in his first.

The key to the current leaders’ success has been not cashing in their chips at the turn in Friday’s scramble round at Silver Lakes. They were only 4-under after nine holes, then have played their last 27 holes in 28-under (10-8-10) with 18 birdies and five eagles. They are actually 31-under over their last 30 holes.

It’s reminiscent of Tiger Woods’ first Masters as a professional in 1997 when he shot 40 on the front, then set the Masters scoring record and won his first major by 12 shots.

“I’m probably most proud of where we stand right now than I’ve been anytime we’ve played just because we played so bad the first nine,” Wigington said. “If we’d have kind of let it get the best of us, and shoot 4-under and then 5 or 6, we wouldn’t even be talking, but we dug down and didn’t give up a bit and played great. 

“The last nine yesterday and both nines today we just hit it really good. The 4-under could have squashed a lot of things if we let it get to us. The last 27 holes is probably the best we’ve putted and hit it together probably ever – because we had to, to get back into the tournament – but the 27 holes is probably the best we’ve ever played together.”

Saturday’s round didn’t start good for a team three off the lead. They parred No. 10 from 25 yards off the green, but then made only two more pars the rest of the round – back-to-back on the two most challenged greens from Cider Ridge’s changeover to TifEagle Bermuda. They had 12 birdies and three eagles (13, 15 and 5)

It wasn’t bad greens that led to the pars, Cole said, but rather bad shots into them.

They were so together in the round when one had a short putt the other usually made their longer one first. They were so smooth they came to No. 9 each with a mulligan in their pocket, which they used to try to make their 10-foot eagle putts on opposite sides of the hole. They used all four of their mulligans on the first four holes Friday.

Wigington’s first eagle putt on 9 rimmed the cup before stopping on the back edge of the hole. That’s how close they came to setting the record.

The leaders sharpened their partnership by winning the Buddy Moore Charity Tournament at Anniston Municipal. And what helped Cole Saturday was changing to the putter he used there.

“I think it helped me realize I need to switch putters,” he said. “I brought a different putter to the second round of the Buddy Moore and (Twig) was telling me how good I was stroking it even though I really didn’t make a lot of putts.

“Then I show up yesterday with my old putter and putted terrible. I showed up today with that putter he told me I was stroking it good with and I did. I stroked it as good today as I’ve stroked it in a long while with that putter, so it’ll probably be in the bag tomorrow.”

Bussey put together his partnership with Montenegro a couple weeks ago when he learned his girlfriend and original partner Ana  Perez Altuna had an overseas trip planned that might keep her from playing.

He didn’t seek out Montenegro because he had just won the PGA Tour Latinoamerica championship in Mexico a few weeks earlier and might be available. He was simply calling on “one of my best friends” for the chance to share an enjoyable tournament experience.

It’s been good the last two days. They shot 14-under in the scramble at Silver Lakes and followed it Saturday with a round that featured 15 birdies and an eagle and gave them the early lead until Ty and Twig showed out.

Both players went to the practice area after the opening round to work on some things and brought to the course Saturday. Montenegro, who has a ticket to the final stage of Korn Ferry Tour Q-school and some status on that tour, fine-tuned something in his putting and Bussey found a feeling that helped him keep his ball in play more.

“He maybe didn’t have to do everything himself today,” Bussey said. “I definitely was in play a lot more and gave him more freedom to be aggressive.

“Jesus played really, really freaking good today. I made some good putts. I putted good yesterday from a lot farther away, but I’ve still got a couple things to iron out to be the help he needs.”

SKCC leaders at Cider Ridge


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