By Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour staff
CANONSBURG, Penn. – Zack Sucher fired a 6-under 65 Thursday and took a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Mylan Classic in suburban Pittsburgh. Sucher chalked up eight birdies at the Southpointe Golf Club and moved into first place for the first time in his brief Web.com Tour career.
Sucher leads by one over hometown favorite Steve Wheatcroft, Guy Boros, Billy Hurley, Chad Collins, Ben Martin and Whee Kim.
Four others – Cliff Kresge, Franklin Corpening, Blayne Barber and Dustin Garza – are in at 67 and two shots back.
“I drove it well and if you drive it in the fairway you can make some birdies,” said the leader. “It could have been a few better but it was pretty stress-free.”
The same can’t be said for Sucher’s 2013 season. The 26-year old from Moblie, Ala. has no status on any Tour and is making only his third start of the year. Sucher tied for second at the South Georgia Classic in late April but then missed the cut the following week and has been unsuccessful in several Monday attempts since.
“I’ve been fighting to get some starts,” he said. “I’ve been traveling all over the country trying to get in. Mondays are tough. You’re never sure what you’re going to get and a lot of times you have to shoot 66 or better just to make it.”
Sucher came within an eyelash in Valdosta of becoming a special temporary member on Tour but late birdies by D.J. Brigman and Michael Putnam created a three-way tie for second caused a big enough money split to keep him on the outside looking in.
He collected $48,533 but he needed $54,799 – the equivalent of No. 100 on the 2012 money list – to gain membership. He missed the cut the following week at the Stadion Classic at UGA and has been criss-crossing the country since.
“I thought I’d play well in Athens and then I’d be fine,” he said. “I felt like I played better than my scores were showing. For the last month now I’ve felt like I’m hitting the ball really well but the putter has been a little iffy.”
While Sucher entered the week at No. 79 on the money list and below everyone’s radar, Wheatcroft is under the biggest spotlight of anyone.
The 35-year old went to nearby Trinity High School and grew in Washington, PA, about seven miles down the road. One of his first jobs was in the bag room at Southpointe and he admits he’s played hundreds of rounds at the course.
“Obviously the first year I probably had my biggest advantage when everyone else was still trying to figure out how to play it,” said Wheatcroft, who tied for third in 2010. “I was leaking oil coming in but I made a good putt for birdie at nine and that was very gratifying.”
Wheatcroft’s gallery was only two when he teed off at 7:21 a.m. but it had grown to about 25 family and friends by the time he finished.
-- Weather – Mostly sunny. Wind W 7-14 mph. High of 80.
-- This week’s event features a unique component in which 12 sponsor exemptions were given to current All-American Team/Walker Cup team members. Six of the dozen are still amateurs:
-- Sucher is making only his third start of the year. The 26-year old was a Monday qualifier at the South Georgia in late April. Sucher fired a final-round 65 in Valdosta to vault into a tie for second place. He started the last round a distant 12 strokes off the pace set by eventual winner Will Wilcox and wound four shots back.
-- Sucher started the week #79 on the money list despite making only one cut in two starts. Sucher needs to finish in the top-75 by the end of the Cox Classic in order to qualify for the Web.com Tour finals.
-- Local favorite Steve Wheatcroft has played in each of the first four events at Southpointe. He tied for third in the tournament’s inaugural season (2010) and then finished T66 in 2011 and T47 last year. His best round to date was a 65 in the second round in 2009.
-- In two previous starts in this event, Guy Boros missed the cut (2011) and tied for 47th (2012).
-- Boros entered the week No. 62 on the money list. Boros has made the cut in seven of 16 starts this season and has a pair of top-10s to his credit – T4 at the Chile Classic and T9 at the Rex Hospital Open.
-- Steve Wheatcroft started the week No. 44 on the money list. He has made nine cuts in 14 starts. His best finishes were a T4 at the Air Capital Classic and a T7 at the Colombia Championship.
-- Chad Collins has made the cut in half of his 16 starts this year. He tied for third twice – Mid-Atlantic Championship and Utah Championship. He began week at No. 34 on the money list. Collins missed the cut here last year, his only previous start at Southpointe.
-- Cliff Kresge (67) is making his fourth start in this event. He finished T32 in 2010, T50 in 2011 and T2 last year when he held a one-stroke lead after 54 holes.
-- James Nitties posted a 2-under 69 that included a triple-bogey 8 at the par-5, 11th hole.
-- Leading money winner Michael Putnam’s 75 today matched his highest score this year. Putnam had posted par-or-better scores in 42of his previous 57 rounds this year. He carded a 75 in the final round of the Chile Classic in mid-March. Putnam fired a 63 in the final round of last week’s Albertson’s Boise Open to finish 22-under and tie for third. He is T116.
-- Kevin Tway, playoff winner of last week’s Albertson Boise Open, birdied his final two holes Thursday morning for a 2-over 73 and is T77.
-- Bhavik Patel (76) withdrew after the opening round.
-- Todd Baek withdrew during the round due to an injury.
-- Bogey-free rounds on Thursday:
67 – Cliff Kresge
68 – Jeff Klauk, Brad Elder
70 – Brice Garnett
-- The Southpointe GC course record is 62, first set by Brad Adamonis in the second round in 2011 and matched later that day by 2010 champion Kevin Kisner. Danny Lee also tied the mark in the fourth round that year.
-- Looking ahead to the 36-hole cut Friday (low 60 and ties) – there are currently 76 players at 1-over par or better. The cut in 2010 came at 1-under and it was 2-under in 2011 and 2012.
-- The Web.com Tour returns to Springfield, Mo., for next week’s Price Cutter Charity Championship. The tournament is one of four original events that remains from the Tour’s inaugural season in 1990. The 24th edition will once again be contested at the Highland Springs Country Club August 8-11.