He took notice, but didn’t let it affect his approach. Instead of pressing to catch up, the reigning Calhoun County Player of the Year stuck with the game plan that has served him so well over the years. By the end of the day, he passed them all to lead the Pine Hill Invitational, which will wrap up with today's second round.
Wigington shot a bogey-free 7-under-par 65. With three birdies in his final four holes, he passed the brilliant 66s posted by playing partners Jeremy McGatha and Matt Rogers for a one-shot overnight lead. Grant Hockman was fourth after a 68.
“The worst thing to do is to think about that number and press yourself to try to do it,” Wigington said. “I was just sticking to trying to birdie one out of every three holes out here and if I do that I’ll shoot 66 and if I don’t make a bogey and have one other birdie somewhere then we’ll shoot a good score.
“That’s what I did and I stuck to that. I didn’t press. I didn’t hit some shots taking chances because of that. It’s two days. I just stuck to my plan.”
Wigington was ahead of the plan with three birdies through his first six holes. He was 4 under through 11. He kept the ball in play all day and the only bad tee shot he hit got a favorable kick back into the fairway.
When he hit the home stretch he was still two shots off the lead. Even then he didn’t push the envelope, but he knew there were opportunities to be had. He birdied both par-5s coming home and the short par-4 17th.
“I was trying to birdie all of them,” he said. “The par-3 (16th) isn’t necessarily a birdie hole, but I hit a decent shot in there. I knew 17 if you just make solid contact it was going to be on or over (the green) and 18 takes two really good shots and I hit a great 3-wood off the tee to get down there farther than I was planning on.
“Seventeen is a big opportunity and 18 is an opportunity as well. You just have to take advantage of those if you’re going to have a chance to stay in there and have a chance to win.”
Until the late wave of players that included Wigington hit the course, the number to shoot at belonged to Rogers and McGatha.
Rogers put his bogey-free 66 in the best-ever-round category. He was 4 under through six holes after birdies on No. 1, 4, 5 and 6, chipped in for birdie on 12 (which McGatha called beforehand) and picked up his last at 17. He had 11 putts on the front nine and 23 total.
“I got off to a good start and made some pretty good putts and some good second shots, but we started feeding off each other,” Rogers said. “We were cheering each other on.”
Together, they made 10 birdies on the front nine and had 12 birdies through 12 holes.
McGatha did all he could to keep up with his good friend. He went out in 30, but didn’t start tearing it up until he dropped six birdies in a seven-hole stretch between 5 and 11.
He had eight birdies in the round offset by two bogeys on the only two greens he missed. He hit his first 12 greens in regulation, 12 putts on the front and 15 through 11 holes.
“For him doing as good as he was doing, it helped me,” McGatha said. “Pars weren’t going to get it. I had better bear down and make some birdies or he might lap me.”
Among the other contenders, Hockman birdied each of his last three holes to earn a spot in today’s final group and Ott Chandler bounced back from a double bogey at 9 to shoot a bogey-free 31 on the back for a 70.
T.J. McGatha and Timmy Woodard both made eagles in the round. Woodard eagled the par-5 sixth and McGatha holed out a 6-iron from 169 yards and a tough lie on the par-4 ninth hole. McGatha shot 75, and Woodard shot 76.
Al Muskewitz covers golf for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.