Three share first-round lead at WNB Golf Classic
April 24, 2014
By Joe Chemycz, PGATOUR.COM
- Andrew Putnam's opening 66 helped him grab a share of the lead. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
MIDLAND, Texas – The weatherman had it backwards on Thursday in West Texas, where the wind is normally non-existent in the morning and blowing steadily in the afternoon. Early starters in the first round of the WNB Golf Classic were greeted by steady, northwest winds from 20-25 miles an hour, with occasional gusts over 30 while the afternoon wave had a comfortable breeze to enjoy a leisurely walk.
Australian Rod Pampling put together the day’s best round, a 6-under 66 in the morning wind that left him tied for the lead at the Midland Country Club with Washington native Andrew Putnam and Vermont’s Trevor Murphy.
When the front half of the 156-man draw had finished play only six players had scores in the 60’s at the par-72 layout. When the day was done there were 27 players who had posted sub-70 scores.
Halfway through the morning the scoring average had crept just over the 74.000 mark but eventually retreated back to a more familiar 72.436.
“Six under in that wind was unreal,” said Putnam, who finished about six hours after Pampling posted his number. “We saw that the wind was going to die down this afternoon and we were kind of fist-pumping inside.”
Pampling, a transplanted Texan who calls the Dallas area home, admitted the blowing winds forced him to adjust his game plan for the course.
“If you hit it high with the wind as strong as it is the ball’s going to get caught in it so I’m just pegging it down low and let it roll,” he said. “I think you really have to work out where the ball is going to end, which is hard when the ball is rolling 50 yards.”
Pampling’s calculations were spot on as he found nine of 14 fairways and 14 of greens en route to the clubhouse lead, which held up despite the afternoon calm.
Putnam, No. 6 on the money list after six events, was a bit more adventurous and hit only six fairways and 12 greens.
“The front side was a little scrappy,” he said. “I didn’t birdie the two easy par-5s where I had really good chances and missed some short putts.”
His only bogey of the day came late on the par-4 7th hole, where his tee shot found the trees.
“I got stuck behind a tree and had to ‘lefty whack’ it out of there,” he said. “I whacked it about 120 yards with a 4-iron. I put the toe down. I practice that shot all the time.”
Unfortunately he failed to get up and down but smashed a 6-iron on the par-3 8th to about 25 feet and made the putt to rebound with a birdie.
Murphy joined the co-leaders with his bogey-free effort a short time later.
Sebastian Vazquez, veteran Len Mattiace, Travis Bertoni and Carlos Ortiz, the Tour’s leading money winner and a two-time champion already this year, share fourth place with 5-under 67s.
Eight more players are knotted at 4-under 68, including 20-year-old Michael Kim of California who is making only his second start of the year.
• Thursday weather: Partly cloudy and windy. Wind NW 20-25 mph in the morning with gusts to 30 mph. Winds settled down shortly after noon to NW 10-15 mph with gusts to 20 mph. High of 80.
• Rod Pampling had never shared/held the lead after the first round of a Web.com Tour event prior to today. This is Pampling’s 68th career start on Tour.
• Pampling has held/shared the first-round lead on the PGA TOUR six times in 307 career starts. The most recent time came at the 2009 Legends Reno-Tahoe Open.
• Trevor Murphy has not played on the Web.com Tour since late in the 2012 season. Murphy was a member of the Tour in 2010 and 2011 but made only four starts the next year – he finished T22 at the Utah Championship, T7 at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational and missed the cut at the Cox Classic and the Chiquita Classic.
• Murphy is in this week’s field on a sponsor exemption from the Tour’s umbrella sponsor, Web.com.
• Leading money winner Carlos Ortiz celebrated his 23rd birthday Thursday. “It was just like any other day,” he said. “I was on the golf course.”
• Harold Varner III is in the house with a 4-under 68 after making a mistake on his scorecard. Varner made a birdie-3 at No. 17 but signed for a par-4 on the hole so he was given the four, which changed his score from a 67 to a 68.
• Rookie Zach Fullerton attended New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs, N.M., which is about 90 minutes from Midland. Fullerton, who then attended New Mexico State University, fired an opening round 2-over 74.
• Roger Sloan posted a 1-under 71 despite hitting 14 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation. Sloan didn’t challenge the leaders because of the 33 putts he needed to complete the round. He two-putted every hole on the front nine for a 1-over 37 and closed his day with a pair of birdies on the final two holes. Sloan is T40.
• Monday qualifier Alex Carpenter shot an even-par 72. Carpenter was a four-time Division II All-America at Abilene Christian University and a two-time DII Jack Nicklaus Award winner. He owns virtually every school record for the Wildcats and closed his stellar career with an NCAA record 20 collegiate tournament victories. Carpenter was also a four-time winner of the Lone Star Conference’s Player of the Year award. Carpenter is a native of Little Rock, AR and is making only his second career start on Tour – he missed the cut at last year’s Mylan Classic, where he earned a start via his collegiate resume.
• Brett Stegmaier (82) withdrew after the opening round. The former Florida Gator is No. 15 on the season money list after a playoff runner-up effort at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
• Players who posted bogey-free rounds this week:
R1 – 66 – Trevor Murphy; 67 – Travis Bertoni; 68 – Albin Choi