Pinehurst Pros — Great play on a tough course

Pinehurst’s Kelly Mitchum

SEASIDE, Calif. – Much of the talk around the PGA Professional National Championship entering the tournament concerned the difference in difficulty between the two courses the 312-player field would play for the first two rounds.

Just ask first-round leader Mike Small. “You can’t fake it around Bayonet, that’s for sure,” he told PGA.com.

After Sunday’s opening round, players who started on the Bayonet Course clearly had a tougher road, with the course playing nearly two strokes more difficult than the Black Horse Course.

And after Monday’s second round, little changed.

While Bayonet may have played a tad easier – repeat, a tad – it was still the more challenging of the two courses. After Sunday’s first round, the field struggled to an even 77.0 scoring average. The sample size was doubled following the other half of the field playing the Bayonet in Monday’s second round. But little changed – the Bayonet, after 312 rounds, is still playing to a 76.9 average.

The Black Horse? It still remains more than shot easier.

So does any of that mean anything?

Oh yeah. It makes what Pinehurst Resort’s Kelly Mitchum and Todd Camplin did all the more impressive.

Pinehurst’s Todd Camplin. Photo by The Fayetteville Observer

Camplin, who qualified for the PGA Championship after winning a playoff to earn one of 20 berths out of the National Championship a year ago, made the cut again in 2012, and shook off two bogeys in his first seven holes on Monday at Bayonet to play the next nine holes in even par. He did finish his round with a bogey on the par-5 ninth to fall to 3 over, but easily made the cut.

By doing so, Camplin still has a chance to make a move back into the top 20. Entering Tuesday’s third round, he stands just three strokes out of a tie for 17th, which would put him back into a playoff for a trip to Kiawah, S.C., and a second straight PGA Championship appearance.

Then there’s Mitchum. An online scoring error during Mitchum’s afternoon round showed him as high as 6 under late Monday night and alone in second place, just two shots out of the lead held by Matt Dobyns.

But before Mitchum was done, the error was corrected – he made par instead of birdie on the 12th hole – and a finishing-hole bogey dropped Mitchum to 4 under and into a tie for fourth, still only four shots out of the lead.

But what the fervor surrounding Mitchum’s online score may have masked was a fantastic round of golf on a course PGA Tour winner Jason Dufner has even called “impossible.” Mitchum had one birdie, one bogey and seven pars in a clean front nine, then made birdie twice in a six-hole span on the back nine to get as low as 5 under for the championship. His 71 was one of the better scores turned in on Bayonet on Monday.

Which brings us to Tuesday’s third round. The 77 players still alive will play Bayonet.

For the guys from Pinehurst, it seems that’s a good thing.

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