By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
LAS VEGAS -- Luke Guthrie went 165 mph in a race car earlier this week. Now he's off to a hot start at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. He shot 64 on Friday to post 9-under 133 for the first 36 holes. He's six shots behind leader Webb Simpson, but also was in the top five when he finished his round.
He closed Friday's round with an adventurous birdie at the par-5 ninth. After his second shot ended up in the left trees, he "chipped" an 8-iron from 71 yards, keeping the ball under tree limbs and rolling it about 40 yards to within 5 feet of the hole. He also chipped in at No. 1, his 10th hole of the day. He rode in a stock car on Wednesday with a Shriners Hospitals patient as part of a pre-tournament event.
"I got it going there. It's been a while since I've strung a bunch of birdies together. I just got out of my own way and let it flow," he said.
Guthrie had several weeks off after playing the first two events of the FedExCup Playoffs. The rest was needed after a long rookie season. He played 27 events in the abbreviated 2013 season, his rookie year on TOUR. He struggled in the second half of the year after playing a lot early in the year as he chased a Masters berth.
He rose to 64th in the world after a third-place finish at The Honda Classic; it was the first of five consecutive starts as he tried to crack the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking and earn an invitation to Augusta National. Guthrie's two top-10s in 2013 both came before May. He had just one top-25 in his final 14 starts in 2013, including eight missed cuts. He missed six of his final seven cuts of the season.
"I was running on fumes the whole second half of the season, which kind of stinks because the TOUR goes up to the Midwest, where I grew up, and plays on bent greens," said Guthrie, of Quincy, Ill. "I'm refreshed now, I feel good. I'm able to grind out a round like 2 under yesterday. Those rounds show I'm a little fresher.
"It feels like a new season." He finished 40th at last week's Frys.com Open, his last event since the Deutsche Bank Championship on Sept. 2.
He will play next week's BMW Masters in China, after failing to qualify for the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, then will play the McGladrey Classic and OHL Classic at Mayakoba.