LUMBERTON — Greg Powell struggled with his putter in the second round of the Robeson County Golf Championship at Pinecrest Country Club on Saturday, but that issue wasn’t reflected in his final score.
Powell carded a 3-under 69 for the second consecutive day to move within one stroke of Championship Division leader Stephen Pippin heading into the final round on Sunday.
“My putting was not good, especially on the front nine,” Powell said. “I missed a lot of 5-footers. I was 1 over after 10 and birdied five of the next seven and three-putted 18 unfortunately. Tee-to-green felt really good.”
Powell’s 69 in the division’s first round on Friday put him three strokes behind Pippin, Ryan Bass and Keith McGirt, who were tied for first place at 66. None of those three players shot better than 71 on Saturday, and Powell took advantage of the opportunity to climb the leaderboard.
“Until the tournament’s over I always feel like I have a chance,” Powell said. “Obviously there’s some good players over here. I’ll keep fighting till the very end.”
Pippin, who has one championship under his belt already, carded a 71 in the second round to remain at the top of the leaderboard at 7 under through two days.
“I started out great. I started out hitting the ball as good as I could hit it,” Pippin said. “I was 3 under heading to nine. I felt like my came was at the top of the world. Then i kind of switched up my strategy and started going to a more conservative route. Nerves started kicking in, and it resulted in a bogey on nine and a double on 10.”
Pippin was able to regain some stability on the back nine, using birdies on 15 and 17 to bolster his score.
McGirt and Bass moved to third and fourth place, respectively. McGirt shot a 74 and ended the day at 4 under, while Bass finished the second round with a 75 to bring him to 3 under for the tournament.
Jeff Wishart, who sat at 1 over after the first round, turned in the second-lowest score of the second round with a 70. He is now in fifth place with one round to go.
“I felt like I was a little under pressure because I had a bad round yesterday on the back nine,” Wishart said. “Yesterday I started out hot and was 4-under-par through eight holes and I let that slip away, so I wated to get it back today.”
John Haskins and Landon Lowry sit behind Wishart at even-par heading into the final day. Lowry matched Powell with a 69 in the second round.
They are followed by nine-time champion Kyle Covington and David Lowry Jr., who are tied at 3 over, as well as Joseph Martin and five-time champion Dyrck Fanning, who are at 5 over and 6 over, respectively.
“My swing hasn’t been consistent all weekend,” Martin said. “It’s just been grinding it out.”
Defending champion Brad Locklear finished the day at 8 over after turning in a 77 in the second round.
With his second championship within reach, Pippin is confident.
“There’s always pressure when you’re close to the lead in the county,” Pippin said. “You always feel that pressure because you know that you are close and there are other players out there who want to win.
“My mindset is to continue to play smart and conservative golf and try to continue to strike the ball as best as I can. Win, lose or draw, have fun. That’s the end goal.”
Reach Brandon Tester at 910-816-1989 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @BrandonTester.