You can’t beat a pair of aces

At No. 16, drama was in the cards

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By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / September 4, 2011

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NORTON - Mike Vitti didn’t make the drive from Norwalk, Conn., for the Deutsche Bank Championship expecting to catch lightning in a bottle. Especially not twice.

He just carved out a spot with his chair yesterday morning by the ropes along the 16th green at TPC Boston, watching the action and chatting with Walter and Stevie Smith, a pair of golf fans from Charlestown, R.I.

All morning they watched as golfer after golfer attacked the 161-yard par-3 that is protected by water.

Jon Reed, a marshal for the hole, said at least six golfers among the morning groups landed in the water.

“I saw three go in,’’ said Vitti, 75. “Davis Love was one of them. There’s a lot of air up there moving. I guess he was just short.’’

Said Walter Smith, “Luke Donald was in the rough and muffed his chip shot.’’

Then, at 9:39 a.m., lightning struck.

Brandt Snedeker, coming off three birdies in four holes, walked to the tee, 9-iron in hand. He took a guess at the wind, struck the ball just right of the hole, and watched it spin in for a hole-in-one.

“I hadn’t had one for probably 10 years, and never had one as a professional,’’ Snedeker said. “So that was kind of a monkey off my back.’’

Two groups later, lightning struck again at 10:12. Greg Chalmers walked to the 16th tee after opening his second round with six straight pars. He pulled out his 9-iron as well and surprised himself.

“It didn’t look from where I was standing far enough up to go in,’’ Chalmers said. “I thought it was going to be 4 or 5 feet short. Apparently it was a pleasant surprise.’’

So was a pair of holes-in-one within a span of 33 minutes. In the history of the Deutsche Bank Championship, there have been seven holes-in-one, all of them, coincidentally, in the second round.

“When I saw the first one, I said, ‘I’ve seen two holes-in-one: mine and his,’ ’’ Vitti said. “When I saw the second one, I said, ‘Oh my God.’ ’’

Walter Smith was at TD Garden last season when the Bruins scored three shorthanded goals in a game.

“I’ve seen everything now,’’ said Smith, 84. “Two holes-in-one and three shorthanded goals on one power play. That’s pretty fantastic.’’

Reed had a clear view of both shots.

“Both balls came in high and to the players’ right, nice arc on them, dropped within a couple feet of the pin and a little backspin into the cup,’’ Reed said. “Beautiful shots.’’

Snedeker’s ace highlighted his round of 7-under 64 that vaulted him into contention at 9 under for the tournament, one shot behind a group of three players.

“I didn’t know how to react, it had been so long since I did it,’’ said Snedeker, who also eagled the par-5 18th and shot 29 on the back nine. “Definitely got the juices flowing. Going to be an expensive bar bill tonight probably.’’

The hole-in-one helped spark Chalmers. He went on to post four birdies on the front nine (his second nine of the day) to shoot a second-round 65 that left him at 4 under for the tournament.

“It certainly gave me a lot of momentum going forward,’’ Chalmers said. “I would say the key to my round was that particular shot. It seemed to lift me, and I played a lot better, particularly on the first six or seven holes of the front nine.’’

After the ace, Chalmers gave the ball to a young fan. He said he had two other aces as a pro, and gave away the ball both times.

“He’ll enjoy it more than I will,’’ said Chalmers, who has 11 lifetime aces, the first when he was 13. “I’ll just lose it.’’

Chalmers said he didn’t realize Snedeker had aced the same hole until he saw the scoreboard at No. 18. Snedeker was on No. 18 when he got a hint of the day’s second ace.

“I heard a huge roar,’’ Snedeker said. “I figured someone had knocked it in there.’’

Luke Donald, who was in Snedeker’s threesome, said with a smile, “You don’t even get a skin for that one today.’’

Chalmers didn’t have a problem sharing bragging rights.

“I’m sure he’ll survive when he’s one shot back on the lead,’’ Chalmers said, grinning. “I’m not worried about him.’’

“It was just one of those fluke things where I hit a great shot at the right time,’’ he said.

Ditto for Chalmers.

“A hole-in-one’s quite often surprising,’’ he said. “And that certainly surprised me.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at