When the first-round scoring average for a non-major event is just south of 74 strokes, you know something is up… and that something was the wind, which seemed to be a steady 20 mph most of the day, with gusts that at times felt well northward of 30. Conditions were extremely tough on Thursday, and things don’t look to be improving for Friday. In fact – they could be even tougher.
But last week’s runner-up in the Mayakoba Classic – Spencer Levin – continued his steady play this week by getting into the clubhouse early with a well-managed round of 3-under 67, which given the conditions in the opening round on Thursday was more realistically like a great round of 7-under 63. The 26-yr-old California native shared his secret Thursday afternoon in dealing with the tough conditions.
“I think you just have to be prepared to know that you’re going to have to get a few balls up-and-down, that’s kind of the way it is, no matter how you play. And you get kind of in a par mode really where you just have to kind of take what the course gives you. If you hit a good drive, you don’t want to get too cute and try to go at a pin that you might shouldn’t and then make a bogey because you know pars are going to be a good score. It’s more of just a mind-set of, try not to make a double and you know you’re going to have to get a few balls up-and-down here today.”
Australian Greg Chalmers didn’t scare his record low score of 6-under 64 at this event 2 years ago, but he played brilliantly in the gusty winds on Thursday by posting a bogey-free round of 2-under 68. Chalmers finds himself in a 5-way tie for 2nd place heading into Friday, with Y.E. Yang, Stuart Appleby, Kyle Stanley, and Charl Schwartzel, all likewise posting 2-under opening rounds of 68. The Aussie provided his take on the day, which was very similar to the mindset of the guy he’s chasing.
“I kept the ball in play off the tee. I think that’s the key. I stayed out of the rough predominately on the front nine. The back nine was a little scratchy and I made — I tried to not hit two bad shots in a row if I could, I tried to get back in play and make par and I managed to do that a couple of times after a poor tee shot. I think that and I picked up a couple of birdies and I’m really pleased with the day.“
But the biggest story on Thursday is Priceless, pardon the pun. Champions Tour regular – 54-yr-old Nick Price – finds himself on the first page of the leaderboard after Day 1 at this very tournament that he won back in 1994. Price’s level-par round of 70 on Thursday was good enough to find himself in a T-9th with about a dozen other players. No different than the general consensus from every other player on Monday, Price noted that driving the ball well and staying patient were the biggest factors.
“I drove the ball really well today, which was probably the key to my round. I’ve been hitting it well the last two or three weeks out on our tour, and I’ve been a little balky with the putter and I worked on the putting last week, changed putters and got some cute new ideas that I experimented with last week, and it worked. And I putted really solidly today, but I drove the ball well. I kind of wore my long irons out today. I don’t think I’ve got much groove left on them. Every time I got to the hole, it was 190, 195; we normally get 135, 145. So I knew the scores were going to be high today and to be patient. Earlier I was saying it was U.S. Open-type conditions and being patient in these conditions is really important.”
Other Miscellaneous Musings
OWGR Notables: Five guys in the top 10 of the OWGR are in the field this week, but only one of them would post a round in the 60′s on Thursday. #10 ranked Matt Kuchar played exceptionally well in his opening round of 1-under 69. Kuchar is currently T-7th. Lee Westwood, #2 in the world rankings as of Monday morning, posted 4 birdies with 4 bogeys to shoot a very respectable round of level par. Last week’s winner at the WGC Matchplay and newly ranked #3 Luke Donald finished nearly a stroke under the scoring average on Thursday with a 3-over 73, despite taking a triple bogey on the par4 11th. Donald is currently T-45th. #8 ranked Rory McIlroy and #4 ranked Graeme McDowell also followed Donald’s lead with matching rounds of 3-over 73.
High Scoring Notables: Adam Scott, Vijay Singh – 7-over rounds of 77. Camilo Villegas, Brian Davis – 8-over rounds of 78. Fred Funk – 10-over round of 80. Nick O’Hern – 11-over round of 81. Sunghoon Kang – 14-over round of 84.
Notable WD’s: Despite shooting a solid round of 2-over 72 on Thursday, Brandt Snedeker would have to withdraw after learning that his wife was in labor with their first child. Good luck, Sneds and Congrats. Chris DiMarco failed to properly sign his scorecard in his last tour event and earned a DQ…. not that it mattered, he would’ve missed the cut anyway. But after shooting a +12 round of 82 on Thursday, DiMarco made it official that he’d had enough this week and withdrew. Chris isn’t doing himself any favorable good for future sponsor exemptions, sad to say.
All player’s quotes are courtesy of PGATOUR.COM, and an official video recap of round one at the Honda Classic can be seen HERE.