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Oakland's Brian Stuard surges to brief lead on Day 2 of RMC, is 9 under entering weekend

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — If Bryson DeChambeau is "The House," then Brian Stuard is "The Pop-Up Tent."

The buzz all week at Detroit Golf Club — and frankly the recent PGA Tour stops before here — has been about Bryson DeChambeau and his stunningly long drives. But Stuard, 215th on the PGA Tour in driving distance, continues to show there is more than one way to find success on this Donald Ross gem.

Brian Stuard

Stuard made four consecutive birdies on his opening nine holes in the second round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic and briefly found himself alone atop the leaderboard.

He finished with a 5-under 67, putting up at 9 under and squarely in the hunt heading to the weekend.

"After birdieing No. 9, I think I saw it," Stuard, the Oakland alum and Jackson native, said of his name on top of a 156-player field. "We had a bit of a wait making the turn, so yeah, you know, it's nice to see.

"But still, it doesn't mean much."

Not when Detroit Golf Club, yet again, was a birdie-hunting mecca again Friday. Matthew Wolff made six birdies in a row at one point and was challenging the course record of 63. DeChambeau was bombing it all over the place and staying near the top. Kevin Kisner, fueled by a hole-out from the fairway at the par-4 sixth, worked his way into contention. And on and on.

That's why Stuard, for a second consecutive day, was a bit disappointed he couldn't have done more.

He started poorly with a bogey at No. 2 to fall back to 3 under for the tournament before reeling off four consecutive birdies on Nos. 4-7. At the fourth, he hit a 52-degree wedge to inside 4 feet. At No. 5, he hit an 8 iron to less than 7 feet. At No. 6, it was another 8 iron, to less than 4 feet. And at the par-5 seventh, he chipped to inside 4 feet.

Stuard also made birdie at the par-3 ninth to make the turn at 4-under 32, 8 under for the tournament.

The irons were on point, a big difference from his opening 4-under 68.

"I just kind of went back to what feels comfortable and normal to me, and started hitting a few draws," Stuard said. "I was able to hit a few close."

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His momentum stalled on the back nine, as he fell back with a bogey at the 12th, an errant tee shot finding a nasty lie in the right rough. He could only slash it into the greenside bunker, shortsiding himself with the pin also on the left, and he couldn't get up and down.

Stuard, though, again stuck it close with an iron at the short par-3 15th, making a 7-footer for birdie, and he closed with a birdie at No. 18, hitting his approach to inside 4 feet again.

On the 18th, it was another 8 iron — so, if you're keeping track, that just might be the club for him this week. It also was that same 8 iron he used on his first hole of the tournament Thursday, when he holed out for eagle from 164 yards on the par-4 10th hole.

"That's the one," Stuard said, with a laugh. "I guess I'll be laying up to the 8 iron this week."

Stuard, 35, finished tied for fifth in last year's inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic, his chances of a title stalled by a second-round 72, surrounding rounds of 66, 65 and 68.

Last year, he admitted this week, he might've put too much pressure on himself, especially given all the friends and family he had on the grounds cheering him on.

That's not an issue this year, with no fans on the PGA Tour for at least two more weeks.

Also not an issue: Driving distance.

Stuard rarely hits 300-yard drives, but he finds a lot of fairways, which on this tree-lined course, with the rough extra penal this week, might be as good an asset as any.

"I think this is a course where anybody can play well," Stuard said. "Obviously, Bryson is playing well, he's obviously hitting it pretty straight and making the birdies. For me, if I get it in the fairway, then I feel like I've got as good a chance as anybody."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984