WICHITA, Kan. -- Nicholas Thompson overpowered Crestview Country Club with a 9-under-par 62 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the opening round of the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open.
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|THOMPSON THRU 18 HOLES|
On the 6,886-yard, par-71 course that gives players several options off of nearly every tee, Thompson consistently went to his driver, which left him with short irons into most greens.
"I drove it long and straight today. That's a good combination, especially on this golf course," he said. "I had wedge in my hand a lot today and I reached the three par 5s in two, or at least was near the green in two."
Thompson not only hit driver on the short par 4s, but also cut the corner over water on two of the longer par 4s on the course, including the 456-yard seventh hole that required more than a 300-yard carry.
"That's the way I play, typically. I laid up on the par 4s in the practice rounds and it just didn't make sense," said Thompson, who ranks no. 2 in total driving on Tour this year. "I hit my driver so straight right now, it makes more sense to hit it up near the green and take your chance with a pitch shot."
After making the jump from college directly to the PGA TOUR last year, Thompson has enjoyed success in 2007 on the Nationwide Tour. His season began quickly with a victory at the HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship. With five other top-10 finishes, Thompson ranks No. 5 on the money list and is well one his way to earning a spot in 'The 25' at the end of the year, which would result in a PGA TOUR card in 2008. But Thompson's goals for the season match his aggressive approach on Thursday.
"The goals haven't changed for the season," he said. "I still want to finish No. 1 on the money list. That is still the goal. I still have it in my mind to win three times this year and get an instant promotion to the PGA TOUR."
Thompson's round began quickly after starting on the 10th hole and opening with a 6-under-par 30 on his first nine holes. Three more birdies meant a bogey-free day to shoot his lowest round of the 2007 season.
Trailing Thompson at 7 under par are Ryan Hietala and Jamie Broce. After struggling to start the season, Hietala has made three consecutive cuts. The 6-foot-5, 235-pounder credited a familiar face as his caddie for his strong play the last few weeks.
"Having my wife (Jennifer) on the bag has been fun. She caddied for me last week. Before that, I hadn't seen her for two months. So it's great to have her out here with me," said the 33-year-old. "Having her come out and be there for me on the golf course makes things much easier and less stressful. It makes me a lot calmer on the golf course. She gives me this ease because it doesn't matter as much. If I shoot 65 or 88, she's there for me."
Hietala's round included an exclamation point with an eagle at the par-4 ninth hole, his final hole.
"I saw it land, but I couldn't see what happened after that," he said. "I got up to the green and couldn't see the ball. They told me it was in the hole, so that was fun. It was a nice way to finish the day."
Broce also finished the day at 7 under. Playing in the afternoon, Broce also began on the back nine and went out in 32. Rain and windy conditions blew in while Broce had four holes remaining in his round. A birdie on his 17th hole put him in a tie for second and gave the 1999 Ball State University graduate with limited status on the Nationwide Tour a chance for his third top-25 finish at this event.
"It seems like this season I've finished the first round looking at the cut line," Broce said. "It's nice to finish today near the top. It's a comfortable golf course for me. I was looking forward to coming here."
A group of 10 players are three strokes off the lead at 6 under including Athens Regional Foundation Classic winner Martin Laird. Through 14 holes, he was 6 under without recording a single birdie. Starting on the 10th hole, Laird eagled the 14th, 18th and second holes while recording pars on the others. Laird followed his first bogey of the day on his 15th hole with a birdie on his 16th and finished the day with a 65.
First-Round News & Notes: Nicholas Thompson, Tommy Tolles, Chris Anderson, Mike Sposa, Vance Veazey, Stephen Gangluff, Scott Gardiner, Ben Bates, Chris Thompson, Ted F. Smith and Kenneth Staton shot bogey-free rounds on Thursday. ... The last player to record three eagles in a round was Lee M. Williamson, who had all three on his back nine at the Showdown at Somerby. ... John Riegger withdrew following Thursday's round.
They Said It: Jamie Broce, on living in Indianapolis, IN and having a child named, "Peyton." -- "It's a coincidence. But if I ever meet Peyton, I might lie to him."