Vegas hangs in as Na charges

Kevin Na shot a blistering 63 in Friday’s 2nd round in Las Vegas, but it was only enough to put him into a 3-way tie for the lead.

American Kevin Na shot a blistering 8-under 63 in Friday’s second round of the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open, but it was only enough to earn him a share of the lead.

Heading into the weekend at Las Vegas in Nevada, he is tied at 12-under 130 with Charlie Wi of South Korea and Venezuelan rookie Jhonattan Vegas, who had also shot a 63 on Las Vegas’s low-scoring TPC Summerlin in the first round, but saw the wheel of fortune turn against him on Friday and could only come up with a 67.

Americans Brendan Steele and Chris Blanks, who both fired 65s and Tim Herron, who posted a 66, are tied for 4th, just one shot back at 11-under on a crowded leaderboard, but the man who made the most impact on the day was American Hunter Haas.

Haas looked to be capable of shooting a rare and magical 59 before posting the lowest round of the week – a stunning 10-under 61.

“I know I had a chance (of a 59),” Haas said after finishing the round just two strokes off the pace. “After I birdied the fifth hole, the par-three, I knew I had at least three good birdie opportunities coming in, and I screwed it up.”

Haas finished bogey-birdie-par-par after starting his round on the back nine.

“It’s just a matter of making putts,” he said. “That’s all that matters out here.”

Indeed, putting was the very reason the 39-year-old Wi, who is still seeking his first victory on the US PGA Tour, was able to shrug away the dread he has had for low-scoring courses like the par-71 TPC Summerlin and move to the top of the leaderboard with opening rounds of 64 and 66.

An expert skier who also enjoys martial arts, Wi was clearly happy to be in contention for the Las Vegas title after enduring a roller coaster 2011 campaign.

“I’ve had a pretty up-and-down year and I want to go out with a bang, make sure my game is ready for next year,” he told the media after some skilled putting helped him card six birdies as against just one bogey

The Korean, who failed to qualify for the final two events in the PGA Tour’s lucrative playoff series earlier this month, has not previously enjoyed playing what was previously the Las Vegas Open.

“I’ve only been here once before in six years,” said Wi, whose only top-10 in his 22 starts this year was a 2nd place at the Colonial Invitational in May.

“I was here a few years ago and the scores were so low, I was kind of scared just coming over here. But I’ve played really well the last two days.”

Vegas, the overnight co-leader with American rookie William McGirt, was happy to have retained a share of the lead despite not striking the ball as well as he did when posting that opening 8-under 63.

“That’s kind of why the round wasn’t as good as Thursday’s,” said the big-hitting, broad-shoulder Venezuelan, who won his first PGA Tour title in his first month on tour – the Bob Hope Classic in January.

“But my putting’s been pretty good; Hopefully I can continue like that for two more days and we’ll be right there.”

McGirt, meanwhile, could only add a 69 to his opening 63 on Friday and dropped down the leaderboard into the large group on 10-under and just two shots off the pace,

But right now with 18 players within two shots of the lead and another nine just three shots of the pace, the Las Vegas battle, the first in the US PGA Tour’s winding-down Fall series, is wide open and you can expect some pretty tense stuff on the final day when picking up shots is more than likely to be an absolute essential.

(US unless stated; par 71)
130 Kevin Na 67 63, Jhonattan Vegas (Ven) 63 67 Charlie Wi (Kor) 64 66
131 Brendan Steele 6 65, Tim Herron 65 66, Kris Blanks 66 65
132 Hunter Haas 71 61, Scott Piercy 67 65, Kevin Streelman 66 66, Paul Goydos 66 66, Billy Horschel 66 66, William McGirt 63 69, Nick Watney 65 67, Boo Weekley 67 65