Ridings, Schultz lead historic opener in Colombia

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Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
Tag Ridings was bogey-free on Thursday at Bogota Country Club.
March 04, 2010
Joe Chemycz, PGA TOUR Staff

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Tag Ridings and Dave Schultz posted 6-under 65s and grabbed a share of the opening-round lead at the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open, the fourth stop on the Nationwide Tour's 2010 schedule and the first PGA TOUR-sanctioned event on the South American continent.

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Ridings played early and negotiated his way around the tree-lined Bogota Country Club course without a bogey and held the lead for most of the day. Schultz closed his afternoon round with three birdies on his final five holes to join Ridings atop the leaderboard. Tommy Gainey, Canada's Bryan DeCorso and Argentina's Daniel Barbetti, the 2009 Colombian Open Champion, are tied for third place, one shot back.

Gary Christian, D.J. Brigman and Craig Barlow are in at 4-under 67 and share sixth place with rookies Mark Anderson, Jamie Lovemark and Zack Miller.

The course, located about 30 minutes north of downtown Bogota, seemed to have the upper hand on the initial round. The scoring average on the par-71 layout was 72.545, with only 38 players in the field of 135 posting sub-par scores.

"There are a lot of holes that you really have to be conscious of the trees here," said the 35-year old Ridings. "It's a shotmaker's course and maybe, being a little older like I am, I've got a little more experience doing that, like backing off drivers and such."

Ridings finished No. 9 in driving distance on the PGA TOUR in 2009 and the big-hitting Texan took advantage of his power, reaching all three par-5s in two and two-putting for birdie each time. He added a pair of birdie putts from 12 feet as well as another from 30 feet to reach 6-under.

"I don't think you can just overpower this golf course," he said. "You really have to strike it good and when you do, you have to take advantage of it. The key is to get it in the fairway. There are some really tight shots off the tees. Even the par-5s, you've got to thread the needle."

Schultz birdied all three par-5s and added a trio of 2s from the par-3s during his seven birdie, one bogey afternoon.

"I had trouble with the speed of the greens early in the round but other than that I was real happy with the round," he said. "I was a little more aggressive than I thought I was going to be based on my practice rounds this week. You can play this golf course many different ways and I might play it completely different tomorrow as far as strategy goes."

The one thing everyone must deal with, in addition to the trees, is the altitude. Bogota, the third-highest capitol city in the world, boasts an atltitude of 8,660 feet above sea level. The ball travels farther, forcing players to re-calculate their range-to-target distances.

Well, except for Schultz.

"I just take the yardage for what I'd normally hit and just hit one less club. Depending on the wind, it might be two less," he said. "I don't get too involved in the 10-percent or all of that. I don't want to do high math out there. It's a feel thing. If it's into the wind it's still one less club. If it's downwind, it's two less clubs than normal."

Gainey, coming off a third-place finish at last week's Panama Claro Championship, kept his momentum going and was cruising along at 7-under through 15 holes. Disaster struck on the par-4,16th where he took two shots to extract himself from a greenside bunker and then three-putted for a triple-bogey 7.

He rallied with a 15-foot birdie putt at the finishing par-5, 18th and was the temporary leader in the clubhouse.

"The course doesn't really set up for me because it's tight and I'm a long-ball hitter," he said. "Normally all the long hitters, well, we spray it once in a while. The course being this tight doesn't favor us unless we just hit 3-iron hybrids off the tees and we try to score that way."

Gainey hit driver only three times, on the par-5s, and dialed it down the rest of the day with 4-, 5- and even 6-irons off the tees.

"You've got to go with what the course gives you. You've got to compare your game to the course and just switch it," he said. "The fairways are only about 25 yards wide and that's not very wide at all. I'm trying to hit fairways and if I can, I think I can shoot some decent numbers."

First-Round Notes:Luke List went into the record books by registering the first birdie in tournament history. List, playing in the initial group off the first tee, birdied the first hole. The distinction of hitting the first tee shot went to James Hahn.

Brian Smock withdrew during the first round due to back problems. Smock was runner-up last week to Fran Quinn at the Panama Claro Championship.

Daniel Barbetti recorded the first eagle of the tournament. After starting on No. 19, Barbetti eagled the par-5, 13th hole.

• Colombia's Camilo Benedetti (76) and Manuel Villegas (73) both posted over-par scores. Villegas, younger brother of two-time PGA TOUR winner Camilo Villegas, started bogey-bogey-bogey before turning things around with three birdies to make the turn at even-par. Villegas was still at even until making a double-bogey on his closing hole. He is at +2 and currently T71.

• There were only five eagles recorded on the first day, all on par-5s. There were 60 double-bogeys and a dozen triple-bogeys.

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