JACKSON, Miss. – Hattiesburg native Davis Riley left the course Friday afternoon at the Sanderson Farms Championship frustrated with his driver and flummoxed by his putting.
And yet, Riley resides near the top of the leaderboard at The Country Club of Jackson and will enter play this weekend in the mix for his first win on the PGA Tour. Sitting tied for third at 7-under for the tournament through the second round’s morning wave, Riley trailed Thomas Detry by three strokes.
“I drove it terribly today,” Riley said. “Yesterday, I didn’t drive it great. One of the worst driving weeks I’ve had so far in a long time. But yeah, when I’ve had an opportunity I’ve just taken advantage of it.”
Riley sat tied for the lead after the first day of play at the Sanderson Farms, shooting a six-under 66. He followed that up with a one-under 71 Friday, this time dealing with the chill that has come along with the morning tee times in Jackson this week.
Riley’s critical evaluation of his play inherently paves the way for weekend optimism. Already in a strong position on the leaderboard, Riley can truly lift off if he can sort out his drives and catch some consistency on the greens.
“I’m optimistic because there’s a lot of things I’m doing well,” he said. “When I have hit the fairway or put myself in a good position, I’ve taken advantage of it. I think it’s a pretty simple fix, just getting some good start lines and going from there.”
Riley, beginning his second full season on tour, is hunting for his first victory. He almost had it in March at the Valspar Championship but fell in a playoff to defending Sanderson Farms champion Sam Burns.
Davis Riley hits off the 9th fairway during Round 2 of tournament play of the Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson in Jackson, Miss., Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.
There’s still plenty of golf to be played, but Riley has positioned himself to have another run at it this weekend in his home state.
“It would mean the world to have a chance to win this golf tournament,” he said. “But … there’s a lot of work to be done. The game is in a good spot. I didn’t score and do things quite as well as I did yesterday, but I’m still doing a lot of things good. I just need to make a tweak or two here or there and get ready to go again tomorrow.”
Riley, who graduated from Presbyterian Christian School in Hattiesburg and played collegiately at Alabama, said he took notice of the local support gathering for him in the crowd.
Riley welcomes the boost but also acknowledges the pressure that can accompany it. In three previous starts at the Sanderson Farms Championship, he has missed the cut twice and finished 39th.
Well on pace for his best showing in Jackson, Riley is hoping to approach the weekend with a clear mind.
“I love the golf course, and obviously you want to do well close to home,” he said. “But that’s something that I think I’ve struggled with in the past is maybe putting a little too much pressure on myself to perform, instead of treating it like any other week and feeding off the hometown feel.”
David Eckert is a sports reporter for The Hattiesburg American, part of the USA Today Network. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @davideckert98.