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Healthy Griffin, Champ share Shriners Children’s Open lead

To say the last 18 months have been a struggle for Lanto Griffin would be an understatement.

Back surgery in July 2022 put the PGA Tour player on the sidelines for the rest of the year, and three tournaments into his comeback in February, he fractured a rib in his chest and pulled some muscles in his mid-back.

Griffin went from the golf course at Riviera to the emergency room in Santa Monica, sidelining him again for several months.

Eight months later, he is finally pain-free. And it’s showing in his game, with a 5-under 66 on Friday taking him to the top of the leaderboard at the Shriners Children’s Open. Griffin sits at 12-under 130 at the midway point, tied with Cameron Champ at TPC Summerlin.

Henrik Norlander is one behind, with J.T. Poston and Nick Taylor two back.

“It’s crazy the anxiety of when you’re playing bad and your body doesn’t feel good. It feels like everything is going against you. Nothing feels good. It’s not the most fun sport,” said Griffin, a 35-year-old with one career title. “But it’s the exact opposite when the putter is rolling and your body feels good. It feels amazing.”

Griffin had the putter rolling Friday. After opening with six straight pars, he birdied 16 and 18, then ran off four more in a row after the turn.

“It was just kind of get in a groove and ride it,” he said of the stretch.

While Griffin has been dealing with physical ailments, Champ has been fighting his own issues, primarily personal belief and mindset.

“You can convince yourself of one thing and you can convince yourself of another. It’s just a matter of what you want to believe. That’s just really what I’ve been trying to emphasize,” said Champ, a three-time winner who has gotten help to rediscover his love for the game, regardless of the results.

He calls the new attitude being free-spirited on the course.

“For me, I knew there had to be a change because I wasn’t enjoying myself, didn’t want to be out here, and again, I’ve loved the game forever. It’s given me everything,” he said. “So I know it’s not that I don’t love the game. It’s just I’m taking it out on myself.”

The new attitude has worked wonders the first two days at TPC Summerlin, where rounds of 63-67 have him in contention during a season where he has missed 17 cuts in 25 starts.

The first signs of a turnaround came last week in Mississippi, where he tied for ninth. He’s taken it a step further this week, with 13 birdies and an eagle on his scorecard over the first 36 holes.

Norlander also had his putter working, making birdie on five of his first seven holes to continue his solid play from a week ago when he lost in a five-man playoff to Luke List. Being in contention for the second straight week has energized Norlander.

“I’ve been playing bad golf for two years, so this is quite fun. It doesn’t take much energy to make birdies,” he said.

Also making a run Friday was Harry Hall, who found himself three shots outside the cutline at the turn. But Hall had three birdies and two eagles to shoot a back-nine 29 and rocket up the leaderboard.

Hall (6 under) is among six Las Vegas players who will play the weekend, a list that includes Ryan Moore (6 under), Isaiah Salinda (5 under), Justin Suh (4 under), Scott Piercy (3 under) and Taylor Montgomery (3 under).

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. Reach him at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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