By Laury Livsey, PGA TOUR staff
SANDY, Utah -- Prior to the first round of the Utah Championship, Brian Prouty’s career-low Web.com Tour round was a 67. This season, B.J. Staten’s low round was a 66, a score he had shot three times. So naturally, both players went out and shot 8-under 63s at Willow Creek Country Club on Thursday, good enough to give them a share of the lead at the Utah Championship. A group of four players—Derek Fathauer, Kevin Foley, Adam Hadwin and Matt Weibring—is a stroke back.
“I’ve been working really hard and getting some good work done. It was fun. A lot of fun,” said Prouty, a former Arizona Wildcat, of his round.
Staten shared similar sentiments. The Tennessee native who went to college in Texas (University of Houston) now lives in Utah, his home a short drive from the golf course. He married his wife, Alisha, a Utah native, 20 months ago. Staten, who played bogey-free golf, made putts of 35 feet (Nos. 5 and 8), 18 feet (No. 13) and 17 feet (No. 14). He added four other birdies during the round.
“Obviously, I gave myself opportunities. I hit the ball really well today, and I didn’t take advantage of the par-5s,” Staten added, “I think I only birdied two of them. On the others, I missed putts inside six feet.
“I’m not complaining,” he continued. “To come out here in the afternoon and post a round like that, I’m excited to get the week off to a great start.”
Prouty mentioned his putter prominently, as well. “The difference is I putted really well today,” said Prouty, who is making only his 14th Tour start. “I finally made some putts that I wasn’t supposed to.”
The highlights of his round were his two eagles, one to open his round and another at No. 12. Both came via 7-iron approach shots. He made two- and four-foot putts, respectively, for the 3s he wrote on his scorecard. “You should make those for eagles,” he added.
Hadwin had what he considered the best start to a round of his career. Playing Willow Creek’s back nine first, he went birdie, par, eagle, birdie, birdie, birdie before a bogey on his seventh hole ended the 6-under run.
“That was pretty good. I just came out of the gate and hit everything where I wanted to,” Hadwin said. “It’s just one of those things when they get rolling. Then I was back to reality coming in there the last 12 holes.”
Michael Putnam, a two-time winner this season and the Utah Championship winner in 2010, opened with a 2-under 69, tying him for 67th.
Officials stopped play for a dangerous weather situation at 6 p.m. Play resumed at 6:20.
Prior to his opening 63, Brian Prouty’s previous-best score this season was the 67 he shot in the first round of the Brasil Classic in April. That 67 was also his career-best.
The first-round scoring average of 69.155 easily broke the tournament record of 69.808 set in 2008.
Kevin Foley recorded the 24th ace in tournament history when he knocked his 7-iron shot into the hole at No. 5. There have been more holes-in-one at the Utah Championship than in any other Web.com Tour event in history. It was the first ace at the tournament since 2010 and the sixth hole-in-one on No. 5.
Bogey-free rounds (11): First Round -- Shane Bertsch, Paul Claxton, Jason Gore, Scott Harrington, Richard S. Johnson, Andy Pope, Alex Prugh, B.J. Staten, Matt Weibring, Ron Whittaker, Tim Wilkinson
Four first-round leaders have gone on to win the Utah Championship, including the last two—J.J. Killeen (2011) and Doug LaBelle II (2012).
The only Utah Championship winner not to shoot a round in the 60s in the first round is Arron Oberholser. He fired a 1-under 71 in 2002 when Willow Creek Country Club played to a par 72. Since 2007, the worst first-round score by a winner was Michael Putnam’s 66 in 2010.
Shane Bertsch is making his 10th start in the event, and he’s played 11 Web.com Tour events in Utah, having played in the 1995 Utah Classic in Provo. Bertsch’s 6-under 65 Thursday was easily his career-low round at the Utah Championship. His previous best was a 67 in the second round in 2001.