PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Ashley Hall rolled in a 30-footer for birdie on the par-3 14th to briefly tie for the lead at 6-under. After a penalty led to abogey on his very next hole the Australian birdied Nos. 16 and 18 to fire a 7-under 63 and take the overnight lead in Web.com Tour Championship, the finale to the Web.com Tour Finals.
One-stroke back with a 6-under 64 are Robert Karlsson and Mark Anderson.
Chesson Hadley and Shane Bertsch are two shots back at 5-under.
Nine players are three off the pace at 4-under-par 66 including John Peterson, Hudson Swafford and Sweden’s Henrik Norlander.
The Finals match Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR players together competing for 50 PGA TOUR cards and position for the 2013-14 PGA TOUR Season that begins in early October.
With a great warm-up on the range Hall, who started the week 116th on the Finals money list, headed to the first tee with confidence in his game. Hall wanted to be aggressive and take advantage of every opportunity to make birdie, a strategy he plans to use the rest of the week.
“The greens are very soft,” he said. “I was shooting at everything and I’m not going to change it.”
If not for the dropped shot on No. 15, Hall would have carded a bogey-free round Thursday. The 29-year-old called a one-stroke penalty on himself from the middle of the 15th fairway when he moved his ball while grounding his club. The conditions called for playing preferred lies in round one and Hall thinks that he did too good a job taking advantage of the rule.
“I put it on a good a lie and the Bermuda grass wasn’t strong enough,” he said. “I could tell as soon as I put my club on the ground that I moved the ball.”
Hall bounced back from that very quickly by making a birdie on the very next hole. Another birdie on 18 would place him alone atop the leaderboard after day one.
Hall will have a quick turnaround as he tees off in the morning wave on Friday. Hall likes the short amount of time between rounds because he feels that he won’t be able to think about what he did in Round 1.
“It’s going to be nice to get out in the morning,” he said. “Hopefully it is still soft.”
Karlsson has competed in THE PLAYERS five times in his career but had never played Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass before this week.
Karlsson started the week 72nd on the Finals money list. The 44-year-old is not really concerned with where he currently sits or what it’s going to take to regain his playing privileges on the PGA TOUR because he still has status on the European Tour. Even with that security the Swede is very happy to be here and is a fan of the layout.
“It’s quite a tricky course,” he said. “It’s typical Pete Dye. You have to use all the clubs in your bag. I really like it.”
The last two years have been very challenging for Karlsson. At one point in 2012 he had lost all confidence in his game and withdrew from The Open Championship on the Wednesday of tournament week. The PGA TOUR veteran cited a minor case of the “shanks” as the reason for his poor play which also affected his confidence on the course. Karlsson has had to work hard to overcome his current slide in professional golf.
"A couple of years ago I didn’t want to step foot on a golf course,” he said. “But now I’m playing well and had a good run recently.”
Karlsson had his mind made up to come back and play to his potential again. He is working with Gio Valiente on his mental approach and Mark Blackburn on his golf game. The on-course success of fellow Swedes two-time TOUR winner Jonas Blixt and 2013 FedExCup champion Henrik Stenson helped Karlsson really evaluate how he was going about things, a process he has thoroughly enjoyed.
“You need to take a look at what you’re doing and it’s actually quite fun in a way, because all the pressure is off,” he said. “The big challenge is it’s not over yet.”
The last time Karlsson carded a 64 in the first round of a tournament was the HP Byron Nelson earlier this year. A second-round 78 caused Karlsson to miss the cut by two strokes. Karlsson knows that it is just a matter of time before he is back playing at a high level.
“It is a pattern like anything else,” he said. “It takes a bit of time to build up that pattern and even longer to break it.”
Anderson is under a little less pressure this week than most. He locked his card up during the Regular Season by finishing inside the top 25 on the money list. The South Carolina native has found motivation to play well for a different reason this week.
“It’s all about improving your position because these Finals events are extremely important,” he said. “If you can get that exempt status and get into THE PLAYERS that’s a tremendous advantage and a nice perk.”
First-Round Notes & Quotes:
• Wet conditions allowed the field to play preferred lies from the fairway in Round 1.
• Cameron Beckman withdrew in the middle of the round.
• Ash Hall’s 63 in Round 1 is the lowest score he has recorded on the first day of a tournament on the Web.com Tour.
• This is the first time Hall has lead after the first round of a tournament this year. His highest position after 18 holes in 2013 was a T6 at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
• Hall ranks T99 on Tour in greens in regulation this year. In round one he hit 15 of 18 greens.
• Robert Karlsson’s first-round scoring average was 71.24 this year on the PGA TOUR.
• Mark Anderson aced the par-3 14th hole with a 4-iron from 202 yards. The hole-in-one is his first of his professional career and his seventh eagle of the year.
• Anderson fired a 6-under 64 in Round 1 of the Panama Claro Championship earlier this year. He followed it up with rounds of 72-73-74 to finish in a tie for 44th.
• Henrik Norlander’s first-round scoring average is 71.43. Norlander’s lowest opening-round on the PGA TOUR this year was 67 (-3) at the Wyndham Championship.
|Course statistics: Dye's Valley|
• Last year in Round 1 of the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open presented by Planters the scoring average at Dye’s Valley was 71.729.
• The par-4 8th hole ranks as the toughest hole on the course for the second consecutive year after Thursday play. In 2012 it averaged 4.451 as opposed to averaging 4.331 in 2013.