By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
IRVING, Texas -- In his first 13 rounds as a PGA TOUR rookie this year, Will Strickler had yet to shoot a round in the 60s.
Strickler's 4-under 66 in Thursday's first round not only is his best round on TOUR, it puts him in position to achieve another first on Friday -- make the cut.
The 25-year-old Strickler, a University of Florida graduate, has struggled this year after going through q-school last December to gain his card. After walking off the course at the Valero Texas Open in April, having failed to make the cut, he reached his low point.
"I got off the golf course and I was like, 'I am not having any fun.' So one of my goals this week was to come out here and have fun," Strickler said. "It helps to be relaxed. It kind of works both ways -- when you have fun, you play well."
That fun approach helped him deal with an double bogey on his opening hole Thursday, the par-4 10th.
"It didn't bother me because that's the way my year has been going and I just laughed at it," Strickler said. "Luckily, I birdied the next hole, which helped me forget about it for good."
Strickler bounced back again after making bogey at the 14th hole. He then birdied the 15th (with a 52-foot putt), the 16th and 18th to make the turn in 34.
After that, he was bogey-free. An eagle at the par-5 seventh (he hit his approach to within eight feet) and a birdie on his final hole, the ninth, left him in a good move.
"My first goal was to make the cut and I haven't done that, so I got a little work ahead of me," Strickler said. "But I'm off to a good start."
Will Strickler barely survived q-school and didn't get into the first two events of the PGA TOUR season. That hasn't stopped him from enjoying every bit of the experience this week at Torrey Pines. He started the week as an alternate, got into the field on Monday, and is already showing off his cool new TaylorMade putter via his very funny Twitter feed. His Rossa blade, which he nicknamed "The Eraser", even has his initials stamped on it:
When is a bogey a good thing? When it gets a few extra guys a PGA TOUR card.
Because Will Stricker bogeyed the 18th hole to drop to 9 under -- and Michael Putnam and Justin Hicks, both of whom finished inside the top 25 on the leaderboard, were already exempt on TOUR next season by finishing in the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour money list this year -- the number of players at 10 under was reduced to 24. That meant that the next number in, including ties, was suddenly exempt because cards go to players in the top 25.
Translation: Strickler, Scott Gordon and Billy Horschel, who already had status under a major medical exception, all got cards by finishing at 9 under.