Patel opens with 65 at Victoria National
April 28, 2016
By Royce Thompson and Nick Parker, PGATOUR.COM
- Bhavik Patel began the week at No. 11 on the Web.com Tour money list. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
NEWBURGH, Indiana – Bhavik Patel put together a flawless first-round 65 at the difficult Victoria National Golf Club just outside Evansville to take the early lead at the United Leasing & Finance Championship. Patel’s 7-under-par round puts him three clear of Australian Greg Chalmers, Panama Claro Championship winner Ryan Armour and second-year pro Brandon Hagy.
“Honestly, I didn’t see a bogey-free one out there,” said Patel, who was the only player with a blemish-free card on Thursday. “I just went out there and played my game and it turned out pretty well.”
Patel teed it up in this event in 2014 when it was firm and opened with a 4-over 76. On Wednesday the Tom Fazio layout received 1.35 inches of rain, forcing Web.com Tour officials to allow players to lift, clean and place their ball in closely mown areas. The damp conditions allowed the long-hitting Patel to bomb driver off the tee to set up short-iron approaches for more birdie chances.
“Since it’s soft, you can get aggressive,” said Patel who hit 13 of 14 fairways in the first round. “I hit them in the fairway, so I had a lot less club into the greens.”
Patel striped it all day and caught a few good breaks including a fortuitous bounce on the par-3 fifth hole. Patel overcut his tee shot and thought his ball would miss the green until it bounced off a hill and rolled to 20 feet. He drained the birdie try and moved to 6-under. Leaning on a hot putter, Patel was 5-for-5 in scrambling in the first round.
“I actually putted pretty good today,” said Patel, who recorded 24 putts on Thursday. “I probably made two or three putts within 5 or 6 feet, but overall I didn’t get into too much trouble today.”
Last year, Victoria National played to an average of 2.248 strokes over par, making it the hardest course on the schedule last season. The former Fresno State Bulldog is aware of the danger awaiting players if they lose their focus for a brief moment.
“This course is tough,” said Patel. “A couple of wayward shots and you can make a big number. I’ve just got to go out there tomorrow with the same game plan and keep it going.”
Earlier this season the 25-year-old from Bakersfield, California, had a chance to earn his first Web.om Tour victory at the Brasil Champions presented by Embrase. Patel held a one-stroke advantage over Andrew Svoboda coming down the stretch but made a costly bogey on the 72nd hole and settled for a solo second, his best finish on Tour. With three consecutive made cuts under his belt this season, Patel believes his game is starting to fall into place.
“That was a good week for me,” he said about the runner-up performance. “I was playing well going into there. So I'll just keep building off of that.”
This is the second time Patel has taken the 18-hole lead in a Tour event this season. There is still a lot of golf to be played, but Patel is in the driver’s seat in his quest for a trophy.
“It’s huge,” said Patel about his three-shot lead. “It just gives you some good momentum going into Friday.”
Bhavik Patel interview after Round 1 of United Leasing
* Thursday weather: Mostly Sunny, High: 78, Low: 64, Winds: S 10-20 mph.
* Play was delayed 30 minutes due to fog, pushing the first tee times back to 7:00 a.m. As a result, the first round didn’t finish Thursday, with play suspended at 7:42 p.m. 13 players didn’t finish the first round and will return to resume at 7:45 a.m. The second round will commence at 6:30 a.m. as originally scheduled.
* This week’s purse is $600,000, with $108,000 going to the champion.
* Bhavik Patel has only held the first-round lead once previously on Tour. That lead came at the Brasil Champions presented by Embrase, where he fired a 9-under 62 to take the lead but finished a career-best second.
* In two career starts previously at the United Leasing & Finance Championship, first-round leader Patel made the cut both times with a T42 in 2013 as his best finish at Victoria National Golf Club.
* With a 4-under 68 on Thursday, Ryan Armour has now finished under par in 19 of 25 rounds in 2016. At No. 3 on the Web.com Tour Money List, Armour hasn’t finished outside of the top-30 in six starts in 2016.
* Brandon Hagy posted his first career top-10 on the Web.com Tour last week at the El Bosque Mexico Championship presented by INNOVA with a T8, and he continued trending upward with a first-round 68 Thursday to jump into a tie for second. Hagy’s 68 ties his lowest first round on the Web.com Tour in 13 career starts.
* Indiana native Chase Wright was cruising along at 4 under par through 13 holes Thursday when the toughest hole on Tour a year ago – the par-4 14th – bit him. The triple bogey was his only score worse than par on the day, and he rebounded with birdies at 16 and 18 to finish in 3-under.
* Greg Chalmers has 384 career PGA TOUR starts, including five so far this season, but he made his fourth Web.com Tour start of 2016 on Thursday. Chalmers posted a 4-under 68 that included eight birdies. In three starts in 2016, Chalmers has missed two cuts and finished T7 at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by NACHER. He is currently 71st on the Web.com Tour Money List. His last of two career wins on the Web.com Tour came at the 2008 Henrico County Open.
* Looking for the three-victory promotion, leading money earner Wesley Bryan opened with a 1-under 71.
* At 471 yards, the par-4 14th hole was the toughest hole on Tour a year ago with a stroke average of 4.579. On Thursday, it played even tougher at 4.654.
* There are nine players in the field this week from the Hoosier State, whether they were born, grew up or currently live in Indiana. Chase Wright led the Indiana contingent with a 3-under-par 69.
Bogey Free Rounds:
R1 – Bhavik Patel (65)
Ryan Armour interview after Round 1 of United Leasing