By Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour Staff
SANTIAGO, Chile – Whee Kim of South Korea holed his first wedge shot of the day for an eagle, then birdied his next hole and never looked back. The 21-year-old matched the course record with an 8-under 64 to take the opening-round lead in the Chile Classic in Santiago. Kim closed his day with a pair of birdies and grabbed a one-stroke lead over Scott Harrington and Edward Loar at the Prince of Wales Country Club.
Nearly perfect conditions on the 6,903-yard course that doesn’t play to that lenght led to a bevy of sub-par rounds and a scoring average of 70.315. A total of 57 players shot in the 60s and 94 in the field of 144 were below par-72.
Phillip Pettitt, Brenden Pappas, Josh Broadaway, Santiago’s Felipe Aguilar and Brice Garnett share fourth place at 6-under 66. Thirteen players – including brothers Michael and Andrew Putnam and Panama Claro Championship winner Kevin Foley – are locked together with 5-under 67s.
“I had a good start. I played very comfortable today. It was pretty easy,” said the leader in his abbreviated English. “I had good tee shots and good iron shots and I putted good. Everything was good. Today was my day.”
It certainly started out that way when his second shot from 85 yards at the 383-yard, 10th rolled in for an two to begin his round.
“My caddie and I talked and we said to carry it about 84 yards,” said Kim. “It bounced maybe one or two yards with backspin. It was lucky but I played well on other holes.”
Loar put eight birdies and an eagle on his card, which also featured a nine-hole stretch without a single par.
“A lot of my friends and family call me ROY-G-BIV for the colors of the rainbow,” said Loar. “There was a lot of fun going on. I got a little aggressive on a couple holes and made some bogeys but I also made a lot of birdies.”
Harrington, meantime, was one of a few that had an error-free day, but it could have been even better.
“I played with Ewan (Porter) and he said ‘you should have been no worse than 10 today.’ That’s obviously if you make everything,” said Harrington, who missed birdie putts from 6-7 feet on the 15th, 16th and 17th holes. “I did make some other ones but those three are the kind you should make at least nine times out of 10.”
First-Round Notes & Quotes:
-- Thursday weather: mostly cloudy. Wind S 5-10 mph. High of 79.
-- Paul Claxton withdrew prior to the start of the round due to illness. He was not replaced in the field.
-- Whee Kim’s 8-under 64 Thursday matched the Prince of Wales Country Club course record set last year. Paul Haley, the 2012 champion, shot 64s in both the second and the third round, while Alex Coe had a 64 in the second round.
-- Whee Kim is a 21-year old from South Korea playing in his rookie season on Tour. Kim led the PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament after the second and third rounds last December before finishing T43 at PGA West in Palm Springs, Calif. His 63 in the second round tied the Stadium Course record set by Jonathan Fricke in 2008. Kim was previously known as Meen Whee Kim but he asked officials two weeks ago if he could be called Whee Kim. “I didn’t like the sound of Meen,” he said with a chuckle.
-- Brenden Pappas fired a 6-under 66 Thursday and put his name someplace it hasn’t been in a while – near the top of the leaderboard. The 42-year-old South African who now lives in the Dallas area has been troubled by back problems for a few years and as a result has had bigger problems with his game. He has only one top-10 finish in his last 68 starts on Tour, dating back to the start of the 2008 season.
“I’ve been struggling for the last two years to find my game,” he said. “I’ve really had absolutely no clue how to hit the golf ball. I’m out there on a wing and a prayer when I’m out there trying to swing like this.”
Pappas managed to make only five cuts in 20 last year and was forced to withdraw from last week’s Colombia Championship, where he was a past winner. Pappas called on his good friend and countryman Tyrone van Aswegen for some help this week.
“We played a couple of practice rounds and he helped me out with my swing a little bit. It turns out that we get paired together today and so it was very comfortable playing with him,” said Pappas. “He encouraged me the whole way, just saying to keep on going and you’re doing well.”
Pappas used his new swing thoughts to beat his ‘teacher’ by one stroke.
“I’ve been working on trying to get my club on a flatter plane through or down from the top,” said Pappas. “I’ve been coming over it and he mentioned one thing to me in the practice round and it seemed to open everything up. It’s very simple. Just turn your left hip left on the way through.”
-- No group was more comfortable than the one that went out early in the day with brothers Michael and Andrew Putnam in the same threesome. It was the first time the two Washington natives were paired together in a tournament.
“It was almost like a practice round,” said Andrew, six years the junior. “It was kind of weird. On the first tee it felt like it really wasn’t a tournament.”
But there was a friendly dinner bet on the line and since both posted 5-under 67s, the bet was a push and will be settled on Friday.
“It was better than playing behind him,” said Michael. “I played behind him in Bogota and I felt like I was watching him play but not knowing how far he was away on the greens and such. The hardest part was that I had to hold my tongue a couple of times on par-3s where normally I’d say that I hit that good and tell him what club it was. I just had to be quiet and watch him go through his calculations and go about his business.”
-- Bio Kim registered the first back-to-back eagles on Tour in 2013. The 22-year old from South Korea holed a bunker shot on the par-5, 9th and then dunked his second shot from 50 yards on the par-4, 10th.
“I was two-over and wanted to make some birdies,” he said. “I hit a great bunker shot and it just rolled in.”
The eagle-3 got him back to even-par and after a perfect tee shot on 10, he walked up to the green to get a better look at things.
“I just wanted to see. I figured I needed to land it three or four paces on the green. It landed exactly where I wanted and then rolled in with a little right-to-left break.”
-- Santiago native Martin Ureta fired a 5-under 67 and is tied for ninth place. The 27-year old moved to the United States when he was 15 to develop his game and is making his first appearance in front of family and friends.
“It’s definitely something new. I’m staying at home. I slept so well last night, maybe that was a contributor to the good round today,” said Ureta, who grew up about 25 minutes from the Prince of Wales CC course. “Maybe if I’m honest, there’s a little bit of pressure to perform well since I’ve got my family here.”
Ureta, a North Carolina grad who lives in Florida, knows this could be a big week for him as he tries to gain status on the Web.com Tour.
“It lingers in your mind a little bit,” he said. “Obviously a good week here can mean playing in Louisiana and a good week there could mean playing for the rest of the year. It’s definitely a thought. I try to keep that out of the way. I don’t think you do yourself any good thinking about that.”
-- Players who were bogey free in Round 1:
65 – Scott Harrington
66 – Felipe Aguilar
67 – Tyrone van Aswegen, Andrew Putnam, Mike Lavery
68 – Ryan Spears, Ben Martin, Alex Aragon, Sam Saunders, Will MacKenzie