Off the canvas and into contention
Or "get out of my way" day.
Or perhaps, on this Saturday at the Greenbrier Classic, "liberation day."
All this requires a little explanation. Seventeen players tied at 2 under par after Friday's second round, a number that ultimately proved to be the cut.
But for several hours, 2 under looked to be a single shot on the wrong side. The cut line (for top 70, including ties) dropped to minus-3, a figure that would have claimed J.B. Holmes, Matt Kuchar and West Virginia Amateur champion Jonathan Bartlett, among others.
All told, 17 players reached the clubhouse at 2 under, at varying times. The way the tournament has been going, it was only reasonable to figure the line would go lower, if it moved at all.
"It was early, and when I finished, I pretty much thought I wasn't going to make the cut," Holmes said. "I thought it was definitely going to 3, and then I looked at it again at 4 o'clock and it was already 66 [players at 3-under or better], so I was pretty sure it was out."
Meg Kuchar, Matt's mother, shared in the anxiety. Matt Kuchar had to birdie No. 18 to even get to 2 under.
"I just was talking to my daughter-in-law, and she said he thought his putt should have missed on 18, hit a little bump in the green and knocked it on line," said Meg Kuchar, who was born in Huntington. "God was smiling on him and he was meant to perform well in West Virginia. [The cut] did go back and forth a little bit, so we were sweating bullets."
The sweating stopped as the line moved to minus-2 and stayed there. When the last putt dropped, those 17 players were tied for 69th - thus liberated to play another day.
The previous week, we saw how that can work. In Canada, Sweden native Carl Pettersson thought he was going to miss the cut, made it on the number, shot a 10-under-par 60 in the third round and then rallied Sunday to seize that tournament.
Well, we saw the Saturday repeat at Old White, courtesy of J.B. Holmes. And he nearly had company.
The ingredients were there. With 85 players starting Saturday, tee times began at 7:37 a.m., when Brenden Pappas ventured out alone, as the odd man. Tee times for the "138" crowd lasted until 8:49.
Think of your usual late-July morning in West Virginia: Quiet, no wind, a little dew to slow down the already soft greens that had nicely smoothed out from Friday's traffic.
With those conditions, you'll score birdies or get bulldozed. For the most part, the back of the field did the former.
The 17 golfers averaged 65.4, even lower than the field's outrageous average of 66.96. Only Bartlett (71) failed to break par, and there were two 65s, three 64s, three 63s and that 60 by Holmes. The latter held up as the day's low round, surviving a run by D.A. Points that ended in a 61.
At first, Kuchar looked like the one to make a run at 59. He followed the blueprint to do so, blowing through the tougher front nine in a 6-under 28 and ringing up his seventh birdie on the 10th.
He nearly kept up the momentum, just missing an 18-foot birdie putt on the 11th and a 15-footer on the 12th. After a par on the 13th, his chances for a big round evaporated on No. 14.
That's when he pulled his tee shot a little left, and it skipped over the edge into the large bunker on the left of the fairway. His shot out of there hit the front edge of the green and slid down into a valley, and his chip up to a difficult green was similarly short. He was left a 24-foot putt to save par, which he missed.
He birdied the par-5 17th after his second shot took a wicked bounce to the right of the green. He then missed a 16-footer to "settle" for a 63.
As Kuchar signed for his 63, Pappas had already turned in his lonesome 64 and Derek Lamely had sneaked home with a 63. Lamely, in the day's second group, birdied Nos. 15, 16 and 17 to augment a bogey-free round.
Meanwhile, Holmes and Rocco Mediate were cracking jokes and dropping birdies around Old White. Mediate didn't have a shabby morning, but his 63 was no match for Holmes' 30-30 vision.
"I think we had 18 birdies in the group, so we were having a lot of fun," Holmes said. "We were just chatting away - we started talking on 14 or 15."
After the 15th, Holmes was at 7-under for the day. Somebody could well go 4-under in the final three holes, so a 59 was a distinct possibility.
Holmes knew it, and went for it. From the left rough on the 16th, he chipped to 51/2 feet and made birdie.
He needed an eagle on the 17th and nearly got it, just missing a 10-foot putt in a shot already well replayed on the Golf Channel by the time second-round leader Jeff Overton teed off at 1:55 p.m.
On the 18th, the par-3 with the pin in the week's most favorable spot, Holmes had another 10-footer for birdie and did not miss. He liked his career-best 60, but lamented about the ones that got away.
It wasn't just the eagle putt on No. 17.
"It broke left," Holmes said. "I mean, that's two days in a row I've hit perfect putts on that hole and it's not gone in. It looked like it had to go a little bit left. I saw it right on the left edge, and it just didn't move. I couldn't believe that it didn't move.
"So that one didn't bother me as much as ... I hit one in there about 3 feet on 11. I hit a good putt and it just shot right and lipped out on me. So that was more of a ... I felt like I really should have made that one."
As it was, Holmes, shot up 65 spots on the leader board, from near-death 69th to fourth. Kuchar, Mediate and Lamely shot up 51 spots to 18th, and Pappas, Nicholas and Thompson went up 33 spots to 36th.
All are in better shape to make a lot more money than the big, fat zero they were facing Friday afternoon. If the tournament ended Saturday, Holmes would earn $236,250.
But there are 18 holes left and Holmes is six shots behind leader Jeff Overton. Holmes was 12 back before Saturday, so the $1.08 million winner's check seems within reach.
"Maybe I get hot two days in a row and shoot 60-60," he half-joked. "You never know."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com.