BROUSSARD — Rhein Gibson had a chance to run away from the field Friday at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, but an unlikely hole cost him dearly near the end of his second round.
But the Web.com Tour rookie shook off a double-bogey on Le Triomphe’s fifth hole — the second-easiest hole on the course through two rounds — and maintained his two-stroke advantage for the second straight day. The Australia native and current Oklahoma resident posted a 3-under-par 68 on Friday and stands at 12-under 130 going into the weekend.
That’s the lowest 36-hole score in the Open since 2012 and the third-best since the 2004 redesign of Le Triomphe, and it could have been even better.
Gibson, 29, came to the fifth — his 14th hole of the day after starting at the 10th — at 13-under and at one time held a four-stroke advantage over the field, but his tee shot landed in an awkward lie next to a bunker. His attempted 3-wood caught the opposite lip and stayed in, and his approach again found sand next to the green. He wound up with a seven on a hole that gave up almost as many birdies (61) as pars (72) in the second round.
“I probably said some words that TV wouldn’t approve of,” he said. “I was a little disappointed because I got to 13 under in good position and still had the seventh (another par-five) coming home.”
Gibson did come back to birdie the seventh and goes into Saturday’s third round ahead of reigning NCAA champion and Tour rookie Cameron Wilson, who stands at 10-under after a 68. Six other golfers are one more stroke back at 9-under.
Twelve players did not complete play Friday over the 7,006-yard par-71 layout, since half the field had to return early Friday morning to finish their opening round. That dozen will finish their second round beginning at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, and after that group finishes, the field will be cut to the low 65 and ties for the final two rounds.
Play in the third round is expected to begin at about 8:30 a.m. in twosomes off Le Triomphe’s No. 1 tee.
Among the nonfinishers was Lafayette’s Michael Smith, who is tied for the best score among the dozen still playing the second round at 4-under. The cut line currently stands at one-under with 81 players and is likely to stay there when the third round begins.
Gibson had seven birdies and two double-bogeys on his Friday card, also doubling the treacherous “Gator’s Jaw” 13th hole. Five of those birdies came on the normally-more-difficult back side, which he played first.
“I felt really good about that,” said Gibson, who now has 13 birdies and two eagles through 36 holes. “I was a little disappointed with the double on 13, but it’s a tough hole. Today, it was tough to hit driver because it’s probably going to go through the fairway, so you need to lay back a little, which brings the water into play.”
He found that water, but came back to birdie the 15th, 17th and 18th to reclaim the lead.
“I’m just trying to make birdies and get as far ahead as I can,” said Gibson, whose 62 on Thursday was the Open’s lowest first round since 2007. “I’m putting it pretty well. It’s funny, I’d been struggling with my driver. Thursday, I put my old driver in the bag and smoked one down the first fairway.”
He only hit four of 13 fairways Friday but scrambled enough to take his first halfway-point lead on Tour. It’s also the first final grouping for Wilson since his days as NCAA champion at Stanford and since qualifying for the Web.com Tour at last fall’s “Q-School.” Wilson was tied for second with veteran Glen Day entering Friday’s second round, and broke out of the big group at 9-under with a birdie in near-darkness at the par-four 18th to move into solo second.
“In a lot of ways, I played like I did yesterday,” said Wilson, who mixed six birdies and three bogeys. “I was a little bit sloppier today ... a couple of times, it took me three to get down from the greenside fringe, and I made some tired swings on the last seven or eight holes.
“I’m glad we finished, and I don’t have to come back out this morning.”
The 49-year-old former PGA Tour winner Day backed up his opening 64 with a 69 on Friday and is in a logjam with 19-year-old Chinese prodigy Hao Tong Li, four-time Web.com Tour winner Hunter Haas, Ryan Blaum, Bronson Burgoon and Harold Varner III.