‘Moving Day’ lives up to its name Saturday at the AmFam

FITCHBURG, Wis. — Saturday is labeled “moving day” at professional golf tournaments for a reason. It’s the time when the contenders make their move and separate themselves from the pretenders.

Round 2 at the 2022 American Family Insurance Championship lived up to that name and then some. A lead that sat at -7 after Friday moved up to only -10, though there were numerous golfers that made big jumps into contention.

The headliner entering the day was Steve Flesch. The overnight leader played lights out tee-to-green on the front side Saturday, birdieing the 4th, 6th and 7th holes to shoot an opening nine 33. The gear was set back to neutral for the back side, though, as Flesch mixed in one birdie with two bogeys to shoot a second-round 70. He sits at -9 entering Sunday, just one back of the lead.

The big movers of the day started at 3-under and 6-under respectively. The first was Thongchai Jaidee, who fired a bogey-free 65 to move to -10 for the tournament. 

Jaidee’s name was still a few slots back as he ventured through the back nine. That was until he stood on the 14th tee, where birdies on the next three holes vaulted him into a tie for first.

“My confidence with my putting was very good today,” Jaidee said. “I holed some good putts, but the more important thing here is keeping ball in play. That was my plan today. I hit a lot of greens, hit a lot of fairways. The most important thing, I feel is putting. That’s the key for this week. Finally 7 under today, bogey free today, very happy. I’ll try to keep my same game plan tomorrow.”

The 13-time Asian Tour winner hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation during his second round and 10 of 13 fairways, in addition to scrambling successfully all 4 times and finishing 1 for 1 in sand saves. The most telling number: Jaidee needed only 11 putts to close out a back nine 32. His 65 was the best in the field Saturday and puts him in a good position to close out a victory Sunday.

The man he is tied with also happens to be the least surprising name to appear at the top of this leaderboard. It’s Miguel Angel Jimenez, who finished tied for second last year when Jerry Kelly’s late run captured the trophy.

Jimenez’s round is interesting to unpack. The Spaniard started the day at -6, birdied his first hole to get to -7, hit his drive on 2 out of bounds & made bogey, bounced back to play holes 3 to 11 at three-under, stumbled again on 15 to drop back a stroke and then finished birdie-birdie-par on 16, 17 and 18 respectively.

His round was highlighted by hitting 10 of 13 fairways and 15 of the 18 greens in regulation. Jimenez was also successfully able to scramble each of the two chances after the aforementioned bogey on 2. Take away that errant drive on the second hole and he would easily be the tournament’s leader by a few shots. 

Another big mover was Paul Broadhurst. He was playing just a few minutes behind Jaidee’s 65, though was also scoring at a similar pace. Broadhurst started hot, birdieing three of his first four holes to get to -7. A bogey on the par 3 8th set him back for a second, but the United Kingdom native got hot down the stretch with birdies on 11, 13 and 15 and an eagle on 16. 

A closing bogey on 18 dropped him back a stroke, but he sits tied for second at -9.

In all, 16 names are within three shots of the lead entering Sunday. Among that group is Kirk Triplett at -8 (a double bogey on 17 dropped him out of the lead), Paul Goydos, Colin Montgomerie, Jerry Kelly, Tim Herron, Doug Barron and John Daly.

Hometown favorites Kelly and Steve Stricker both fired three-under 69s today. Kelly’s will keep him in the hunt entering the final round, while Stricker’s unfortunately likely won’t be enough after an opening-round 71. Despite the deficit, though, Stricker is still setting goals for the final round.

“I mean, I went out there with 8 under in my head and just never really got any momentum,” Stricker said. “So tomorrow, hopefully, hopefully I can do that and put up a low one. Too far back to win the thing, but to try to get up there and get a top-10 or something.”

The final tournament highlight of the day came from the most interesting man on the Champions Tour: John Daly. Daly, in fluorescent flower-covered pants, notched a bogey-free 66 to stay in the hunt entering the final day.

“I made a few putts here and there, hit a lot of fairways, but the guys are going low,” Daly said. “It’s hard to win out here. Triplett’s hot, Flesch is hot.”

Daly vaulted his way to -7, tied for 9th and again only three shots back of Jimenez and Jaidee.

Now moving past the tournament itself, the 2022 edition of the AmFam Championship saw the celebrity foursome return. Two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North and Packers legend Brett Favre squared off against MLB Hall Of Famer Derek Jeter and LPGA legend Juli Inkster.

The entertaining match between the two teams was decided midway through the back nine when Jeter and Inkster got hot and left Favre and North shots behind. The final score was Team Jeter/Inkster -5, Team Favre/North -2.

The Jeter-Inkster team earned a significant charitable donation in their names to American Family Children’s Hospital in Madison.

Action returns Sunday morning where a packed leaderboard will battle to finally take the trophy away from two-time defending champion Jerry Kelly. That is unless Kelly recaptures last year’s magic and finds an improbable three-peat.