By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- David Mathis doesn't know why he made the change. He's just glad that he went back to his old putter at the Wyndham Championship this week.
Mathis fired a 63 on Thursday morning to finish one shot off the pace set by Carl Pettersson. The round, which necessitated just 22 putts, was only his third in the 60s in his last seven stroke-play starts.
"I'm trying to figure out why I took it out of play to begin
with because I putted well (last) fall," Mathis said. "That time
over Christmas, you do silly things, I guess. I don't know. I put
it back in play this week and, gosh, I putted the ball just so
nice. I can't, for the life of me, why in the world did I take that
putter out of play?
"I haven't felt like I've been playing poorly. I just haven't been getting the ball in the hole. It's a pretty fine line out here, obviously. Gosh, I'm just thankful maybe hopefully to be on the other side of the struggle, I guess."
Mathis, who grew up in the Winston-Salem area, which is about 30 minutes from Sedgefield, came into the Wyndham Championship ranked 136th in the FedExCup. He was projected 68th when he finished and would likely move into the top 125 with a finish of 22nd or better.
"It's really nice to get off to a good start especially the
position I'm in with the FedExCup and being on the outside looking
in," he said. "It's nice to get off to a solid start, give myself
an opportunity to go forward to have a good finish and get in those
playoffs which, gosh, it's a pretty big deal.
"It was a great day out there. I played well. I putted the ball just beautifully all day which was really nice you know. The greens are so good for being so young. It was a fun day."
Mathis has made the Playoffs once in his PGA TOUR career.
He came to Greensboro ranked 129th a year ago and missed the cut but was 126th in 2009 and improved to 118th when he tied for 17th at the Wyndham Championship. He only lasted one more week, though, missing the cut at The Barclays.
"I don't know (how to put the FedExCup out of my mind)," Mathis
said. "Can you tell me? I try not to think about it but it's really
difficult not to think about because it's such a big part -- it's
such a big part of the year.
"Your life can change really quick in the FedExCup if you play well. You know, certain finishes get you in the next week and get you in the next week and, before you know it, if you've played well for three weeks you're in the TOUR Championship and, all of a sudden, you get in every major (except the PGA) the following year.
"They're big events. They mean a lot for us out here for sure."
GREENSBORO,N.C. -- At No. 136, David Mathis came to the Wyndham Championship on the wrong side of the FedExCup bubble.
Granted, Thursday was only the first round. And Mathis played in the morning wave, to boot. But he helped himself considerably with a 65 that left him one stroke off the lead held by Carl Pettersson as play continues on a warm, sunny afternoon.
Mathis' best finish in 24 events this year is a tie for 10th at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. He's missed 16 cuts, including in his last four starts.
The North Carolinian didn't make a bogey on Thursday, though, as he came within a stroke of his low round of the season. According to projections, he likely needs to finish 22nd or better to make his way into the top 125 and earn a spot in the Playoffs.
When he finished, Mathis was projected at No. 68.
GREENSBORO,N.C. -- Carl Pettersson couldn't quite get the course record he set in his 2008 Wyndham Championship victory but the 62 he just polished off at Sedgefield was pretty darn strong.
Pettersson used a string of four straight birdies on the front nine, his second of the day, to finish one shot shy of the record. He started the streak with a two-putt birdie from 15 feet at the par-5 fifth hole, then added a 6-footer at the next, a 21-incher at the seventh hole and an 11-footer at No. 8.
Pettersson had a 31-footer for the record-tying birdie at No. 9 but couldn't convert. He owns a two-stroke advantage over David Mathis, who has played 14 holes. Defending champ Webb Simpson, who played with Pettersson, is tied for third at 4 under.
All three players have strong ties to the area.
Pettersson went to high school in Greensboro and college at N.C. State, then settled in Raleigh, N.C. Mathis was born in Winston-Salem, which is about 30 miles west of Greensboro, graduated from Campbell University and now lives outside Raleigh. Simpson is from Raleigh, went to Wake Forest and now lives in Charlotte, N.C.
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM correspondent
CROMWELL, Conn. -- David Mathis got off to a tremendous start. He made a 22-foot birdie at the 10 th. He made a 49-foot birdie at the 12 th. In between, Mathis made an ace at the 159-yard 11 th. Mathis leads the tournament in Strokes Gained - Putting and in length of putts made (he sank 141 feet of putts on Thursday).
Defending champion: Fredrik Jacobson struggled with the heat. With heat index temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, he repeatedly wiped down the grips of all his clubs to maintain good contact. It worked. Jacobson hit 16 greens and notched seven birdies. His only mistake was a double bogey on the 16 th hole and that was almost an ace -- Jacobson’s pitch mark was just a foot from the cup.
Hot start: It was so hot during the opening round, play had to be halted on occasion for the greens to be syringed. Officials constantly monitored the bentgrass greens, which can’t tolerate extreme heat. This week certainly qualifies. The maintenance crew would hose down the greens to lower the surface temperature. That made greens more receptive but also kept the putting surfaces alive.
Putting problems: Kyle Stanley is a great player. He’s a tournament winner, is 17 th in FedEx Cup points and is sixth on TOUR in average driving distance. He has a weakness though and he knows what is -- putting. Stanley is ranked 180 th on TOUR in Strokes Gained - Putting. He had 34 putts in the opening round and his only birdies came from two putts after missing eagle putts when reaching the par 5s in two.
Happy birthday: Congratulations to Matt Kuchar -- he turned 34 on Thursday and celebrated by shooting a 3-under 67. His round included an eagle at the 13 th and just 24 putts.
Bubba time: What a strange round of golf for Bubba Watson. He is the longest hitter on TOUR and yet did not birdie any of the par 5s or the driveable par-4 15 th hole. Even with those miscues, Watson shot 66. A hole-out eagle at the 10 th helped offset his mistakes on the par 5s.
CROMWELL, Conn. -- David Mathis made his first hole-in-one on the PGA TOUR Thursday. It also helped him take the first-round lead.
The 38-year-old journeyman shot a 6-under 64 after starting birdie-ace-birdie on the back nine at TPC River Highlands.
“It just really got me jump started for the day,” said Mathis, who aced the par- 11th with a 9-iron that landed right of the hole and spun in. “Good place to start from for sure.”
When it was over, Mathis, who went out in 30, had his lowest round of the year.
It was a far cry from how his year started. Mathis missed his first seven cuts and 10 of his first 11 before turning things around the last two months with four finishes in the top 25 in his last eight starts.
Part of that turnaround, Mathis said, was a change in his golf ball -- he went back to using a Titleist Pro V1x, which he hadn’t used since 2005.
He also changed caddies this year with Matt Achatz, Rocco Mediate’s former caddie, taking over his bag.
”He's real even keel,” Mathis said of Achatz. “So I try to be the same way, try to stay just steady and recognize the old cliche, one shot at a time, stay in the present, try not to think ahead.”
So far, so good.
CROMWELL, Conn. -- David Mathis’ once-torrid pace has slowed -- he just made the turn at 5 under after a bogey on the 18th.
One shot behind him on the leaderboard: Rocco Mediate, who is 4 under through his first eight holes.
Meanwhile, the featured group of Webb Simpson, Bubba Watson and Keegan Bradley is nearing the turn. Simpson leads the trio at 2 under, while Watson and Bradley are both 1 under.
Will Claxton had a chance to grab the clubhouse lead at 6 under earlier, but he bogeyed the par-4 18th hole to finish with a 65 and a share of the clubhouse lead.
Claxton missed the green right, then failed to get up and down, leaving himself over 20 feet after a poor shot out of the greenside bunker.
CROMWELL, Conn. -- David Mathis aced the 158-yard par-3 11th earlier, and he’s kept the momentum going.
The 38-year-old is 5 under through his first five holes and currently has a share of the lead at 5 under.
Patrick Cantlay’s day didn’t go nearly as well. He double-bogeyed two of his first three holes and shot 75 in his first round as a professional.
A year after shooting a course-record 60 -- the lowest round ever recorded by an amateur on the PGA TOUR -- Cantlay hit just seven fairways and 10 greens Thursday, while taking 31 putts.
The final group of Ben Curtis, David Mathis and Cameron Tringale will tee off in about 15 minutes with Curtis leading by two over Mathis and three over Tringale.
Curtis, playing out of the 126-150 category, is making just his fourth start of the season this week, with his only made cut being a tie for 14th in Puerto Rico. A three-time winner on the PGA TOUR, Curtis is in search of his first win since the 2006 84 Lumber Classic. He has just two top-10 finishes since 2009.
Because of his 2003 British Open victory, however, Curtis maintains fully-exempt status on the European Tour, where he’s fared a little better and if nothing else gotten in some competitive reps with three starts in January and February -- he tied for 48th at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, tied for 47th at the Qatar Masters and tied for 13th at the Dubai Desert Classic.
This week in San Antonio, he opened with a pair of bogey-free 5-under 67s. It’s the first time since the first two rounds of the 2011 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open that Curtis has posted back-to-back rounds in the 60s.
Through the first 36 holes at TPC San Antonio, Curtis is second in driving accuracy, tied for third in greens in regulation and sixth in strokes gained-putting.
Dating to 2000, four second-round leaders of the Valero Texas Open have held on for the win -- Eric Axley was the last to do it in 2006.
Mathis is coming off tying his season-best round, a 67, despite hitting just eight fairways at TPC San Antonio.
In 11 starts this year, he’s also made just one cut (Puerto Rico, where he tied for 25th) and in two previous starts at the Valero Texas Open, he missed the cut both times.
Mathis’ best finish on TOUR is a tie for eighth at the 2011 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Once again, Tringale is in contention in Texas. A year after finishing in a tie for fifth in this event, he birdied five of his first six holes in the second round to shoot 65 to get within three of the lead.
A few weeks ago, Tringale tied for eighth in Houston.
His only other top-10 finish of the year was a tie for fourth at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, which matched his best finish on TOUR (T4, 2011 Greenbrier Classic).