By Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour staff
PANAMA CITY, Panama – South Carolina’s Mark Anderson and Louisiana newcomer Andrew Loupe used early tee times to beat the heat and the wind to fire 6-under-par 64s and share the first-round lead at the Panama Claro Championship, the first stop on the 2013 Web.com Tour.
Peter Tomasulo, James Nitties and Korea’s Dae-Hyun Kim have a share of second place, one shot back. The trio of Scott Harrington, Chris Wilson and Kevin Foley are next at 4-under 66. Seven players are knotted at 3-under 67, including former PGA Champion Rich Beem and Patrick Cantlay.
Thursday’s first-day scoring average was 71.242 for the Panama Golf Club’s par-70 layout.
Anderson was in the first group off the first tee and jumped to the top of the leaderboard quickly with a string of five straight birdies starting at the third hole.
“On the front nine I made everything. Putts from all over the greens, from 10 to 30 feet,” said Anderson, who was a rookie on the PGA TOUR last year and finished No. 164 on the FedExCup standings. “When that starts happening you just let it roll. There’s no need to second-guess your lines and figure out your speed. You just try to it, and that’s when they go in. The goal is to do that on every putt.”
Anderson rolled in eight birdies on the day, but only one on the final nine holes as the winds began to pick up speed and by mid-morning were blowing at a more normal 10-20 mph.
“This course plays a lot harder when the wind is blowing,” said Tomasulo, the one of three players in the field of 132 to post a bogey-free round. “You didn’t have to judge anything for the first seven holes and I’ve never played it when it was that calm. It’s a tricky golf course and you have to think your way around out here.”
-- Thursday weather: partly cloudy, wind N 10-20 mph and a high of 93.
-- This year’s marks the 10th year for the Tour to be welcomed at the Panama Golf Club.
-- This is the eighth time that the Panama Claro Championship has been the initial event on the Web.com Tour schedule. The Tour first came to Panama in 2004 and led off the year in Central America from 2004-09, 2011 and again this year. In 2010, the Tour started at the Michael Hill New Zealand Open (Queenstown) and last year opened the season at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship in Bogota.
-- Anderson’s 6-under 29 matched the second-lowest opening nine holes in tournament history. Anderson is the sixth player to shoot 29 on the front but only the second to do it in the first round (Erik Compton, 2011). Kevin Kisner posted a 7-under 28 on the front in second round in 2010.
-- Anderson ran off a string of five birdies in a row on the front nine (Nos. 3-7), matching the third-best birdie run in the 10 years the tournament has been contested at the Panama Golf Club. Andrew Johnson (2007) and Kevin Johnson (2012) both had streaks of six in a row. Scott Parel (2008) and Erik Compton (2011) also had birdie streak of five straight.
-- Players who were bogey-free in the first round:
65 – Peter Tomasulo, Dae-Hyun Kim
67 – Clodomiro Carranza
-- Loupe is in his rookie season the Web.com Tour. The 24-year old is a 2011 graduate of Louisiana State University, where he was a two-time All-America and two-time First Team All-SEC.
“I worked hard on my game during the off-season. I put in a lot of time on my game and in the gym to get ready for this year,” said Loupe, who three starts in 2011 and four last year. “It’s an honor to be out here on this Tour. Hopefully there won’t be anymore Monday qualifying out here for me. I didn’t take advantage of the chances I had last year. It’s just nice to have a place to play.”
-- Tomasulo fired a bogey-free round of 65 and is tied for third after the opening 18. Tomasulo, winner of last year’s inaugural United Leasing Championship, has already made three starts on the PGA TOUR and will have five more starts to fill out a Major Medical Exemption that began last year. As a result, the Californian can’t finalize any type of schedule.
“I literally have no idea if I’m going to be in Colombia or West Palm Beach for The Honda Classic,” he said, laughing. “I don’t know if I’ll get in so my schedule is really up in the air. I bought a ticket for Colombia but I don’t know if I’ll be there or in Florida. It doesn’t mess with my head but it messes with my bank account.”
-- Scott Harrington fired a 4-under 66 and is T5 after the first day, which is not bad considering he didn’t get to play a practice round. Harrington was home in Scottsdale, Ariz. on Tuesday when he got a call notifying him he was in the tournament.
Harrington was relaxing following a T46 at the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles, where he got into the field as a Monday qualifier – his third career start on the PGA TOUR and his first since 2006.
“I resigned myself to not playing this week,” said Harrington, the last man in the field this week. “I haven’t played here in a long, long time and all I did was walk the course yesterday (Tuesday). All things considered, without sleeping much the past two days, I’m happy with that.”
Harrington hopes he can build off his solid play at Riviera.
“I’ve been real focused on getting off to a good start and playing my way into the top-25. I’ve played mini-tours the last couple of years and won a lot of tournaments and I know I’m ready to make that next jump. I really wanted to be ready to go and playing last week at Riviera was nice. Getting off to a good start is the key. It’s kind of a spring this year with 21 events leading up to the playoffs. A win any week just about locks you up for the top-25 so I want to come out firing from the get-go.”
-- Omar Tejeira, a member of the Panama Golf Club, is the first amateur to compete in this event. Tejeira played college golf at St. Thomas University, an NAIA school in Miami, Fla. He won seven times during his collegiate career, was a conference medalist and was named The Sun Conference Player of the Year following his junior season. He also became the first Bobcat to be named First-Team All-American in golf in 2012. Tejeira shot an 11-over 81.
-- Head club pro Mike Norman is making his ninth start in this event. Norman fired a 4-over 74.
-- Scott Gutschewski fired a 5-over-par 75 in the morning with only 13 clubs in his bag.
“It was purely by accident,” he said with a laugh. “I had two hybrids in my bag and took one of them out that I knew I wasn’t going to use. I got here and realized I was one short. I really could have used a 120-yard club today. I had that shot about five times and pulled it off only once. That’s not a very good percentage.”
-- The Panama Golf Club annually ranks among the toughest on the Web.com Tour. In the nine previous years, the PGC ranked as the hardest on Tour three times, the second-hardest once and the third-hardest three times (including last year). The outliers to that chart occurred in 2006 (9th hardest) and 2010 (11th hardest).
-- In the first nine years of the tournament, there have been only two of 36 rounds that had a scoring average below par (70). Both of those rounds (R2, R3) occurred in 2010.
-- Five past tournament champions are entered this week:
2007 Miguel Carballo 69
2008 Scott Dunlap 70
2010 Fran Quinn 74
2011 Mathew Goggin 69
2012 Edward Loar 72
-- The top-5 money winners from the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica Tour’s fall series earned their way onto the Web.com Tour this season. Here’s how the group fared in round one:
1. Ariel Canete 69
2. Oscar Fraustro 69
3. Clodomiro Carranza 67
4. Matias O’Curry 79
5. Tommy Cocha 73
-- Tripp Isenhour’s 7-under 63 in 2006 remains the lowest first-round score in tournament history. Isenhour’s 3-stroke lead also remains the largest 18-hole lead since the event began in 2004.
-- Ryan Armour owns the course record with a 9-under 61 in the second round in 2011.
-- The first-round leader has gone on to win this event only three times in the previous nine years – Jimmy Walker (2004), Tripp Isenhour (2006) and Vance Veazey (2009).
-- Course statistics for the week:
Front (35) Back (35) Total (70)
R1 35.492 35.750 71.242