MIDDLEBURG, Fla. - Vaughn Taylor stalked away from his final hole, teeth gritted and hands clenched.
"I'm not real happy right now," said the Augusta native.
Somewhere between that point and when he tees off today in the third round of the $120,000 Hooters Tour Naturally Fresh Classic, at the Ravines Golf Resort, Taylor may notice that he's only one shot off the lead. A 68 Friday lowered his score to 8-under-par 136, just behind Max Harris (66) of Charlotte, N.C., and Kyle Kovacs (67) of Sherman Oaks, Calif., who are 9-under 135.
However, Taylor couldn't get past making a bogey on his final hole for the second day in a row. In the first round, Taylor settled for a 68 when he missed the 18th green short, chipped up, and missed a 6-footer for par .
Yesterday, he bogeyed the par-5 No. 9, his finishing hole, after pulling his second shot into a water hazard. Mud on his ball, he said, contributed to the miscue.
"If I get a break out here, I think I'll fall over dead," said Taylor, an Augusta State graduate who has split time this year between the Hooters Tour and the Buy.com Tour. "I finished eighth last week (at the Hooters Tour event in Gulfport, Miss.) and I shot the highest score I possibly could every day."
Before his closing bogey, Taylor played flawless golf on the hilly course, in 90-degree heat. He started his round at the 10th hole, was 1-under for the day at the turn, then birdied four of his next seven holes. Taylor began the flurry with a 30-foot birdie putt at the par-4 second hole.
While Taylor has played only four Hooters Tour events this year, he'll be smack in the middle of the circuit's top players when the third round begins. Tied with him at 8-under are Michael Connell (67), who is second on the 2002 money list, and Jamie Rogers (70), who was among three players tied for the 18-hole lead at 6-under.
Zach Johnson (66), the Tour leader in earnings with $66,842, is alone in sixth at 7-under. Jeffrey Schmid (67) and Brian Domingues (72) are tied at 6-under.
A group at 5-under is led by two players from golfing families. Robert Ames (69) is the brother of PGA Tour member and 2002 Players Championship runner-up Stephen Ames, and Jean-Paul Hebert (67), is the son of Jay Hebert and nephew of Lionel Hebert, both PGA Tour winners in the 1950s and 1960s.