MCKINNEY, Texas -- Tag Ridings says he'd like to take the fall off from the game of golf and spend some time with his family, including his newborn daughter who arrived less than two weeks ago. Ridings also knows the only way he'll be able to do that will be to lock up his PGA TOUR card for 2013 by virtue of a win in the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship.
The 38-year old Ridings, No. 51 on the money list, took a step in the right direction Thursday with a 6-under 65 at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney. Ridings is part of a tournament-record, six-way tie for first place in the Tour's richest event.
Tennessee rookie Phillip Pettitt, Jr. is at 5-under 66 and tied with two-time winner Luke Guthrie, one shot back after the initial 18 holes. Dallas-area residents Edward Loar and Matt Weibring head a group of four players logged together at 4-under 67.
"There's a lot of opportunity for me to make some more time with my family," said Ridings, who entered the week No. 51 and would need a win or a solo second to accomplish his goal. "If I play well I don't have to go to work this fall and that's what I want. I want to be able to hang out with my new baby and my other two kids who need to see what Daddy looks like. The last stretch of six or seven weeks was tough."
Ridings was forced to withdraw after 54 holes of the Miccosukee Championship two weeks ago when his wife went into labor with their third child.
"She was five weeks early. She's not supposed to be here yet," said Ridings of young Charli Elizabeth. "I guess she wanted to see the finish."
The season finale features several storylines, in addition to the final money list, which still remains the primary goal.
"You try to focus on the golf tournament, recognizing that this is a tournament and you're trying to win the money list or finishing 21st like I am now," said Fristch. "If you freak out every time the guy in front of you makes a birdie, that's too much to think about and I'm way too tired to be thinking about that."
Fritsch, 34, knows he's close to joining the PGA TOUR for the first time, but won't worry about it.
"Play good and the rest takes care of itself," he said. "If I was in a different spot and knew I had to finish first, second or third to be in the top-25, you might play a little different and you might think a little different. I know if I play solid, it will take care of itself."
Thursday's opener was perfect for scoring early in the day when the warm winds came from the south. At mid-day a front blew into north Texas, dropping the temperature by 15 degrees and turning the wind 180 degrees.
"We hit it perfect," said Putnam of the wind shift. "We were on 16 fairway when it hit and we played the last three holes downwind. On 18 (par-5), I hit 9-iron. In the practice round, with the wind from the south, I couldn't get there in two. I tried to hit 3-wood and still couldn't make it."
* There are six players tied for the 18-hole lead, which is the biggest logjam after any single round in the history of the tournament. Five players were tied for the 36-hole lead in 2006. The most players previously tied for the lead after the first round was three, which has happened six times since 1993.
* The six-way tie for the lead represents the second-largest logjam on Tour this year. Eight players shared the 18-hole lead at the Chiquita Classic a few weeks ago, including eventual winner Russell Henley.
* Ridings (65), Phillip Pettitt, Jr. (66), Scott Gardiner (67) and David Lingmerth (68) were the only players to post bogey-free rounds on Thursday.
* There are eight players competing this week that were also in the field when the Tour Championship was held at TPC Craig Ranch in 2008: Peter Tomasulo (5th), Scott Gutschewski (T9), Darron Stiles (T11), Casey Wittenberg (T25), Justin Hicks (T37), Skip Kendall (T42), Weibring (T42) and Michael Putnam (T50).
* Doug LaBelle II got off to a fast start by holing his second shot for eagle at the par-4, 1st hole. LaBelle knocked in a 4-iron shot, into the wind, from 182 yards away. In 2008, there were no eagles recorded on the same hole during the four days of the tournament.
* Today's scoring average was 69.650. By comparison, when this tournament was contested at TPC Craig Ranch in 2008, the four-round scoring average was 69.585
* Leading money winner Casey Wittenberg fired a 3-under 68 and is T13.
* Russell Henley, winner of last week's Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open, shot a 1-under 70 and is T31.
* A total of 40 players in the 60-man field posted scores below par in the first round. Only one player (B.J. Staten) shot a score higher than 4-over 75.
* Here is what the bubble position/Nos. 21-30 on the money list looks like following the opening round:
* Course statistics this week: