MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Up-and-down situations constantly tested Joe Affrunti in the second round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic on Friday.
Either an undulating or grassy knob seemed to always be in the way as Affrunti, who hit only 50 percent of the greens at the TPC Southwind, faced numerous delicate chip shots and putts through the fringe.
But the Crystal Lake native saved par in 5 of 7 such situations and shot a 1-over-par 71 for a two-day total of 139. After a two-year hiatus on the PGA Tour because of wrist and shoulder injuries, Affrunti is tied for 38th place and made the third PGA cut of his career in the first of his 13 medical exemption starts.
Harris English is the second-round leader at 10 under, after he blistered the front nine with a 30 that featured two birdies and an eagle.
“The kicker is it’s really nice to know my short game is decent and I can make par if I miss a green,” Affrunti said after a post-round workout. “It really takes the stress off my iron game. I’ve got confidence that if I miss a green, I am still going to get up and down.”
Like his first round, Affrunti mounted a late-round charge to finish on a high note. Consecutive birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 moved Affrunti to 2 under. On 16, Affrunti drilled a 3 wood and was on the green of the 530-yard par-5 in two.
He two-putted from 41 feet to provide distance from the cut line, which he flirted with after a bogey on the par-5, 554-yard third hole when his second shot hit the water and a bogey on No. 5, which came after he found the fairway with his drive.
Locating the fairway wasn’t a problem. Affrunti hit 13 of 14 fairways and was the longest hitter in his group. But soft conditions on the outward nine snagged any shot that landed in collection areas just short of the green and firm conditions as the sun came out and wind started to pick up on the inward nine demanded precision to hit a green in regulation.
“My tee ball was great today,” Affrunti said. “I was confident over it all day. I hit a few irons thin early in the round that cost me a few birdie chances and some of the areas around the green near the fringe are really soaked.”
Still, after a lengthy rehab and several starts on the Web.com Tour, a made cut and the opportunity to play in front of his fiancée, Megan Beasley, for the first time has Affrunti excited about his chances on the weekend.
“At the end of the day, it’s fun to play solid at a good tournament,” Affrunti said. “It’s nice that my friends and family can come watch me and I can do my job in front of them. This weekend I just want to do the same thing. I want to hit the ball on the fat side of the green and give myself a chance.
“Hopefully, I can make a few more putts and hit the ball a little closer on my approach shots. If I can do that, I feel like I can post a 4- or 5-under par.”