TRAVERSE CITY — After spending much of the last two years experimenting with different clubs, Willie Mack III just couldn't get his scores where he wanted them.
His swing was consistent. His mental game was strong. All that was missing was the perfect set of clubs.
Mack III decided to look globally for a solution after a frustrating season in 2018, finding the perfect clubs from a custom fabricator in Japan.
He used his new custom fit Miura irons and Ping woods to shoot a 5-under 67 to take a one-stroke lead after the second round in the Michigan Open Championship at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa's The Bear course on Tuesday.
"I put some new clubs in the bag," said Mack III, who has won two out of the last three events he has played in. "I put those in the bag about a month ago and I have been playing good ever since."
Mack III lowered his score to 7-under after two days, shooting a 2-under 70 on Monday. He played bogey-free golf, carding six birdies in the first 11 holes, until hole No. 17 when his first shot landed on the upper rim of the sand bunker tucked to the right of the par-3. Mack recovered but two-putted for his only bogey of the day.
"I have been playing good," he said. "I was going back and forth with clubs for the last year and a half and finally found some clubs that actually fit. I haven't done anything different, just changed the clubs."
Mack III, who has 53 career Mini Tour victories, finished the morning session with the lead but his long-time friend Francesco Ruffino put together a career-best round to threaten the lead in round two.
Ruffino had trouble with his ball striking on day one, hitting six balls out of play Monday, and some of that rolled over into Tuesday — leading to a 1-under 36. He made the turn and made a change.
"No. 10 I kind of turned the corner a bit," Ruffino said. "Through the front nine I couldn't really get anything going and on 10 I hit a really good drive and then a good iron shot. After that I got on a bit of a roll."
'A bit of a roll' is an understatement. Ruffino went on to birdie seven of the back nine holes, carding a professional career best round of 64 and moving into a tie for second place at 6-under. The 64 was the lowest score on Tuesday.
"I didn't really trust it (my swing) on the front nine, I was hitting some cuts and I was hitting draws yesterday," Ruffino said. "On the back nine I just trusted it and hit cuts on every hole and it worked out pretty well."
Ruffino is tied with day one leader Darren Husse and Okemos' Eric Lilleboe at 6-under in second place.
Muskegon's Andrew Ruthkoski carded the second-lowest round of the day (6-under, 66) to move into a tie for fifth with Manistique's Michael Nagy at 5-under.
Traverse City native Patrick Colburn is the leading golfer from the local area, tied for ninth place with a score of 2-under.
Suttons Bay graduate and amateur Thomas Hursey fell out of the top-10 after a 2-over second round of play.
The cut was made at 8-over after the second round with 73 golfers left to tee-off on Wednesday.
There are 10 local golfers left after the cut including Traverse City's Winton Munch, Randall Hutchison, Christian Vozza, Scott Herbert, White Lake's Jake Kneen, Indian River's Jon Micoff, Glen Arbor's Lee Houtteman and the Grand Traverse Resort club professional Mark Hill.
Hill was the last to make the cut and will be in the first grouping to tee-off at 8 a.m. on Wednesday. The leading grouping of Husse, Ruffino and Mack III will tee-off at noon.