On a day when Charlotte resident Brendon de Jonge tied a Wells Fargo Championship record with a 10-under-par 62, Martin Flores quietly put together a relatively quiet 4-under 68.
That was good enough for Flores, a 32-year-old Texan, to tie for Friday’s second-round lead at Quail Hollow Club with Angel Cabrera at 9-under, with Justin Rose one shot back.
Making his 100th PGA Tour start, Flores all but shrugged off the significance of what’s in store for him Saturday and what happened elsewhere on the course Friday: Going toe-to-toe with two major champions – Cabrera and Rose – and having much of the attention of what he accomplished siphoned away by de Jonge’s memorable day.
All of which suits Flores just fine.
“Yeah, I’m pretty chill,” said Flores, who turned pro in 2005 after playing collegiately at Oklahoma. “I may not be that way on the inside, but outwardly it looks like that a lot of the time. Overall, I don’t get too up or down.”
Flores started the day one stroke behind Cabrera and quickly overtook him by going birdie-eagle on his first two holes. Cabrera, playing later in the day, briefly got the lead back before a bogey on the last hole of his day, No. 9, dropped him back into a tie with Flores.
Rose, last year’s U.S. Open champion, is alone in third at 8-under after a 5-under 67. Shawn Stefani (68) and J.B. Holmes (67) are tied for fourth at 7-under.
Flores has never led a tournament at this point. In fact, he’s led just one other time in his career, that coming after the first round of the 2013 St. Jude Classic in Memphis.
“I’m just trying to become a complete player,” Flores said. “The best players in the world are complete players, so I’ve been working on trying to balance my practice. Not really focusing hard on one area. That’s really helped me.”
Flores began his round with a birdie on No. 10 and an eagle on the 11th.
That’s when Flores’ laid-back attitude surfaced. He said he didn’t realize the ball went into the hole after hitting a sand wedge from 105 yards onto the elevated 11th green.
Flores said he thought Scott Tway, the caddie for playing partner Brian Harman, was kidding when he said, “Well, I guess I’ll go pick it up out of the hole.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Flores said. “I thought the ball stopped. I thought it was long, because it was behind the pin and I couldn’t see it roll, so I just started walking. I had my head down and I was thinking, ‘That’s a nice shot, let’s go make it.’ And then all of a sudden I heard the cheers. It was a great way to start the day.”
Cabrera, who had the first-round lead to himself, birdied four of his last six holes. A two-time major winner – the U.S. Open and the Masters – from Argentina, Cabrera has yet to win a regular tournament on the PGA Tour.
“It’s not the easiest thing, to win two majors,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “But I’ll continue to work and to (try to) win other tournaments.”
De Jonge’s 62 was highlighted by eight birdies and an eagle on No. 14. After a 297-yard rive, de Jonge chipped in from 63 feet.
De Jonge, who is a member at Charlotte’s TPC Piper Glen and the Carolina Golf Club, figured he was in for a quick time of it at Quail Hollow after shooting an 80 in Thursday’s first round. The 18-stroke swing is the biggest on tour since Kevin Stadler followed a first-round 81 with a 61 (20 strokes) the following day at the Frys.com Open in 2008.
“I tried my hardest (Thursday), but just couldn’t get anything out of it,” de Jonge said. “So to come in and get something out of it (Friday) was very rewarding.”
Phil Mickelson, who began the day 5-under and tied for second, dropped back with a 3-over 75, which ties for his highest score at Quail Hollow. Mickelson said he was undone by his putter.
“I don’t know what it was,” Mickelson said. “I couldn’t read them right. When I thought I hit a good putt, it broke. When I played for a break, it didn’t.”
The cutline came in at 1-over and a few other pre-tournament favorites just made it. Former champions Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler made it on the number, as did Charlotte native Bill Haas.