CHANDLER, Ariz. – After entering the second round T9 on the leaderboard, Norman Xiong carded a 9-under 63 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead after 36 holes at Whirlwind Golf Club. The 20-year-old finished 5-under over his final four holes (eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie) to lead the Final Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament.
“It would mean a lot,” said Xiong when referring to potentially earning medalist honors. “My goal coming in was to treat this like a normal tournament and try to win and not really focus too much on trying to finish in the top-40. My goal is to play this like a normal tournament and see how it goes from there.”
The medalist will earn fully exempt status on the Web.com Tour in 2019, while finishers Nos. 2-10 (and ties) and 11-40 (and ties) will earn 12 guaranteed starts and eight guaranteed starts, respectively.
Over one round on each of the Cattail course and Devil’s Claw course, Xiong has hit 31-of-36 greens and 21-of-28 fairways. He posted the 63 on Friday despite taking an unplayable for bogey on the par-5 third hole.
“Nothing in particular turned it around today [after the slow start], I just started making sure that I was in play. This course is really gettable so I kind of just made my putts and kept it in play.”
Xiong is the reigning Fred Haskins Award winner and Jack Nicklaus Award winner as the most outstanding male collegiate player in 2018.
Former University of Florida standout Andy Zhang tallied seven more birdies in the second round to sit tied for second. Zhang turned professional earlier this week and is 15-under through two rounds.
“I got off to a good start birdieing two out of the first three,” said Zhang, who won the individual title at the SEC Championships in April. “The course is very gettable, and I might have gotten a little frustrated when I wasn’t birdieing some of the par-5s today, but to come out with a 66 I’m very happy with it.”
On the strength of five birdies and an eagle in a six-hole stretch, Australian Jamie Arnold carded an 11-under 61 on the Devil’s Claw course to jump to T2.
“I didn’t even know where I was to be honest,” said Arnold. “I had a couple birdies in a row, and then a few more, and then an eagle and another birdie…I honestly didn’t really know where I was until on the shuttle after I was done. I counted it up and realized I could have given it  a look.”
Despite the low numbers, Arnold’s round was not the low round of the day. That distinction went to Michael Gellerman who was T115 after the first round before shooting a 12-under 60 on day two to rise to T14.
Xinjun Zhang also made a late run up the leaderboard with six birdies in his last eight holes to climb to T2. His Friday round of 9-under 63 on the Cattail course was the second-lowest on that course, just behind Kevin Lucas’ 10-under 63.
Third-round tee times will run from 8:30-10:31 a.m. on both courses on Saturday.
* Friday’s weather: Scattered light showers, High of 60, Winds E 5-10 mph.
* This week’s purse is $480,000, with $50,000 going to the medalist.
* The Final Stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament marks the last qualifying stage for the 2019 Web.com Tour season. Players are competing for status on the 2019 Web.com Tour. The medalist (or co-medalists) will be fully-exempt status next year, while finishers Nos. 2-10 (and ties) will be subject to the third reshuffle (12 guaranteed starts). Players Nos. 11-40 (and ties) will be subject to the second reshuffle (eight guaranteed starts).
* Through two rounds, players at 9-under 135 or better are inside the top-40 (and ties), which would earn them guaranteed starts. In 2017, players at 14-under 274 and lower earned guaranteed starts.
* Braden Thornberry, who held the No. 1 amateur ranking in the world for a majority of the 2017-18 season, dropped from his position at the top of the leaderboard into a tie for 29th after an even-par 72.
* Firing an even-par 72 on the first day of competition, Michael Gellerman improved by 12 strokes in his second round with the low score of the event so far, a 12-under 60 that included two eagles on his front nine. Gellerman comes into the event with some momentum, having proposed to his new fiancé, Allie, last week.
* Two University of Texas products find themselves near the top of the leaderboard after the second round. Scottie Scheffler, who finished T27 at the U.S. Open in 2017, and Doug Ghim, who played in both the U.S. Open and the Masters (where he picked up low-amateur honours) this year are T9 and T14, respectively.
* After a quiet front nine saw him turn at 2-under, Doug Ghim birdied six of his final seven holes to post the second-lowest round of the day on the Cattail course at 8-under 64. Ghim made headlines by making three eagles at the 2018 Masters Tournament en route to finishing as the low amateur.
* In 2017, Jimmy Stanger opened with an 8-over 80 before going low the next three days and missing guaranteed starts by one stroke. This year, he improved on his opening round by 13 strokes, turning in a first-round 5-under 67. He followed that up with a 9-under 63 on Friday to sit T5.
* Canadian Michael Gligic followed up an opening-round 63 with a 67 on day two. The 29-year-old comes into the competition following a successful Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada season where he finished No. 14 on the Order of Merit.
* After beginning the 2018 season with no status, Drew Weaver turned a sponsor’s exemption at the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada’s Osprey Valley Open into a third-place finish. The 31-year old opened with rounds of 67-66 and heads into the weekend at T21.