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Senior Players Championship notebook: A heavier lift at Fox Chapel

| Friday, June 27, 2014, 7:18 p.m.

Unlike Thursday's first round at the Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club, the golfers weren't allowed to lift, clean and place — except the par-4, 14th hole where much of the fairway near the green had been under water. Yet, the leaders were able to attack the soft greens.

“There's still a little bit of debris on the ball,” said Doug Garwood, whose 9-under total puts him two shots behind leader Bernhard Langer. “Of course, you couldn't put it up on a nice fluffy lie so it made the irons a little bit tougher, but not too bad.”

The rough, which was wet and heavy Thursday, wasn't nearly as difficult to negotiate during the second round.

“It's drying out somewhat, so I expected them to play the ball up again to let it dry out,” Langer said. “Most balls just plug or roll a foot or two, so I'm surprised we played the ball down.”

From alternate to contender

Peter Fowler followed a first-round 65 with a 2-under 68 on Friday to keep alive his improbable chances of winning the year's third major. Fowler, among three alternates, replaced Dan Pooley in the field.

Suddenly, he has a shot to surprise everyone as Joe Daley did two years ago. If Fowler is feeling the pressure, the heat may have turned up a bit down the stretch as he bogeyed the par-4 16th and the par-5 closing hole, which surrendered the third most birdies (24) in the first round.

“I played a few weeks in Australia and New Zealand, just some small regional stuff which are good fun and a chance to work on my game,” Fowler said. “I had a couple of injuries and operations on my knees, so that slowed me down for a few months this year.

“I've just been working flat out for about a month. So, I think that's really helped me.”

The ups and downs

With a chance to capture their first wins this season, Tommy Armour III and Joe Durant produced largely uneven rounds while other contenders blistered a still-defenseless Fox Chapel Golf Club.

Armour birdied four of five, then bogeyed four of five to finish with an even-par 70. Durant, coming off one of his best rounds of the year, opened with consecutive birdies — including a birdie on the par-5 second where his eagle putt lipped out.

Durant, who rallied for a 2-under 68, and Armour dropped nearly every makeable putt in the first round. On Friday, their rounds were doomed by poor putting.

Allen back into contention

Just a day after posting a pedestrian 68, Michael Allen recorded six second-round birdies and no bogeys to improve to 8-under for the tournament and to within three strokes of Langer.

Allen entered the tournament averaging the Champions Tour's sixth-lowest score per round this season. He has also had success at Fox Chapel in the past, tying for fourth place at last year's Senior Players.

Along with placing himself in better position with his irons, Allen attributed his Day 2 surge to a course that plays long, straight and rather accommodating to his booming season drive average of 278.7 yards.

“It's not extremely hard off the tees, so I feel like I can get it in play,” Allen said. “I'm getting myself a lot of good opportunities off the tee.”

Quick notes

A bad back forced Nick Price to withdraw after he posted a second-round 73. ... Greensburg native Rocco Mediate fired an even-par 70 to fall eight shots behind Langer.

Ralph N. Paulk and Andrew Erickson are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Reach Paulk at rpaulk@tribweb.com and Erickson at aerickson@tribweb.com

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