Round 1 notebook: Greater Hickory Classic

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October 12, 2012
Phil Stambaugh, Champions Tour

Weather: Partly sunny and pleasant with highs in the low 70s and light winds from the NNW at 5-12 mph. A two-tee start was used beginning at 10:30 a.m.

CONOVER, N.C. -- Defending champion Mark Wiebe aced the 205-yard, third hole with a 4-iron shot during the first round of the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn on Friday.

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It was Wiebe's second hole-in-one on the Champions Tour and 15th of his career. It was the fifth ace on the circuit in 2012 and Wiebe's ace was also the fourth in tournament history and the first on the third hole. Both Gil Morgan (2005) and Bob Tway (2010) aced No. 9 while Mark McNulty (2008) aced No. 17.

• Despite lower back pain throughout the day, Dan Forsman gutted it out and carded eight birdies that led to a 7-under-par 65, good enough for a one-stroke lead over David Frost, Fred Funk and Larry Mize.

Forsman originally hurt himself while playing a casual round of golf three weeks ago at Glenwild Country Club in Park City, Utah.

"I was playing with the head professional and Mike Weir of all people. I really tore into a tee shot at the 15th hole and felt something in my lower back. I didn't think I could finish that round and it's been bothering me ever since," Forsman said. "It's been a long time since I've had anything like this happen and it couldn't have come at a worse time since I'm trying to get into the Charles Schwab Cup Championship field. I went out today knowing my limitations and I putted really well which kept my momentum going."

• No previous winner of the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn has started with a round higher than 69 and the average first-round score of the winner over the last six years has been 63.33.

• Only three of the first 21 Champions Tour events this year have been won by first-round leaders/co-leaders and the last to do so was Roger Chapman at the Senior PGA Championship in late May. In the previous nine tournaments in Hickory, only three first-round leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win -- Andy Bean (2006), R.W. Eaks (2007, 2008).

• This was Forsman's best first-round on the Champions Tour since he posted a 65 on Friday at the 2011 Montreal Championship. When Forsman won the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, he posted a 5-under 67 in the opening round.

Fred Funk's 6-under 66 was his fifth consecutive round in the 60s as was Wiebe's 67 today. Bruce Vaughan was the last man into the field, replacing Bruce Fleisher on Thursday. Vaughan took advantage of his opportunity, shooting 4-under 68 in Round 1.

Tom Lehman shot 4-under 68 in his first appearance at the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn. Lehman trails Bernhard Langer by 69 points in the Charles Schwab Cup race. Langer, the winner of last week's SAS Championship, opened with 2-under 70 today.

• Mexico's Esteban Toledo made his Champions Tour debut but struggled with a 5-over 77 today. The Mexicali native turned 50 on Sept. 10.

Willie Wood's 3-under 69 increased his string of par/better rounds to 25, the best streak in that category on the Champions Tour in 2012 and it includes 11 straight sub-par rounds. During his previous three starts, Wood has earned $840,000, an average of $228,000 per start with two wins to his credit. In addition, Wood did not have a three-putt on Friday and has now gone 182 holes in succession without a three-putt, second currently to Andrew Magee with 190.

Russ Cochran, Andrew Magee, Steve Pate, Tom Jenkins, Ted Schulz and Tom Purtzer all played bogey-free golf on Friday.

Curtis Strange one-putted 11 of 18 greens to lead all players in that category. David Peoples had 10 one-putts and had the day's fewest putts -- 24.

• Mark O'Meara birdied all three par-3 holes on his way to a 3-under 69. Since his return from injury in August after more than four months away, O'Meara has posted four straight top-10 finishes, including a playoff loss to Jay Don Blake at the Boeing Classic. He was T8 in his previous start in Hawaii, T10 at the 3M Championship and a T7 at Dick's Sporting Goods Open. Nine of his last 13 rounds have been in the 60s, including an 8-under 64 in the second round of the Boeing Classic. It was his lowest round since a closing-round 64 at the 2009 Boeing Classic. The last time O'Meara had four consecutive top-10 finishes was early in the 2007 season. O'Meara continues to move up the money list from the 89th position he was in just prior to his return at the 3M Championship in August. In his last four starts he has earned $311,785 ($77,946 per start) and has moved up 63 places to 36th on the money list during his run.

Allen Doyle's 4-under 68 matched his low round of the year, a 68 at the Regions Tradition.

• The field averaged 71.438 on Friday with 20 rounds in the 60s and 38 sub-par rounds. A year ago the first-round average was 71.367.

• The most difficult hole on Friday was No. 13 with an average score of 4.225 (+.225), while the easiest was No. 17 4.350 (-.650). There were 2 eagles and 51 birdies.

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