Daily Wrap-up: FedEx St. Jude Classic, Round 1

June 06, 2013
By PGATOUR.COM wire services

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Davis Love III is busy still trying to play his way back into shape after back surgery in February. Playing with Brandt Snedeker and Dustin Johnson, he did a bit better than just keep up.

The 49-year-old Love shot a 4-under 66 for his best round of the year Thursday for a share of the lead with five other players after the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Classic, the final event before the U.S. Open next week at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.

"I still hit some bad shots," Love said.

"At THE PLAYERS and Memorial, I felt like I was playing better than I was scoring. I think it's rust. I'm excited to be back, and I'm anxious and I want to play better than I'm playing. I'm a little bit tired from the two 36-hole qualifiers as well. You got to be a little bit more patient and polished. That's going to take some rounds of golf to get back."

Stuart Appleby, Harris English, Nathan Green, Martin Flores and Glen Day also pushed their way into the lead on a day where at least three others had a piece of the top spot lead at some point.

Johnson, the defending champ, was 5 under through six holes, taking advantage of near-perfect conditions at the TPC Southwind with a temperature in the low 80s and only a slight breeze early. But Johnson finished with a 67 and was tied with 10 others including David Toms, a two-time winner here, and Shawn Stefani, who was tied for the lead before he hit into a fairway bunker and bogeyed No. 18.

Snedeker opened with a 70. Boo Weekley, who won at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, shot a 68 and was tied with seven others. Phil Mickelson had a 71.

Love took off in February for surgery to relieve numbness and weakness caused by spinal stenosis and bone spurs. He didn't play at all in March or April, and this is his fourth tournament back on TOUR. He tied for 29th at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance last week, and tied for third here a year ago in what wound up being his best finish of 2012.

He credited his good start to being grouped with Johnson and Snedeker, who also like to play fast.

"I tried to keep up with Dustin and Brandt," Love said.

Love made the turn at 2 under and birdied Nos. 10 and 11 to move into a five-way tie at 4 under with six others a stroke back at that point. He bogeyed No. 12 and bogeyed the par-3 14th. But Love birdied two of his final three holes to finish with a piece of the lead.

Appleby had five birdies and a bogey for his best round this year. The Australian with nine victories hasn't won since The Greenbrier Classic in 2010, and his best this year was a tie for 35th at the RBC Heritage in South Carolina. He said he was surprised the scores weren't lower on a day where there wasn't any wind.

"I thought there were some more birdies out there," Appleby said. "I think just with the pace of the greens if you're above the hole it's tricky. I'm happy with the way I played today. Anybody who got under par today, the scoreboard, certainly fought to get there."

English, a 23-year-old from Georgia, got to 5 under on his back nine only to bogey his next hole at No. 5. Flores also got to 5 under when he birdied No. 13 to take the lead to himself only to double bogey the 14th after hitting into a bunker. He birdied No. 16 to get back into the lead group.

Green, who lost his status last year, was the clubhouse leader at midday. The Australian who won the 2009 RBC Canadian Open has been busy rebuilding his chipping and putting. This is his best round this year, but it had been awhile since Green had seen his name at the top of a leaderboard.

"I was starting to get nervous seeing my name on the board and made two good up and downs to finish off the round, which is nice," Green said after hitting into bunkers on Nos. 17 and 18 on his way in.

Mickelson struggled on Nos. 15-17 with two bogeys and a double bogey on the par-5 16th where he hit into a greenside bunker into the rough and into another bunker before finally holing out. He said he wasn't sharp with his short game on small, fast greens that don't hold shots well in his first competitive round in a month.

"This is great because it's a great test," Mickelson said. "The guy that strikes it well is going to have a big advantage, but when you do miss greens, you've got to be pretty sharp with your short game because the lies around the greens are some of the most difficult that we get."

But for someone who hadn't played in so long, Mickelson said he was happy with how he hit the ball.

"It's about as good as I've been striking it, and I feel like there's a good round in me," Mickelson said.

Notes: Paul Goydos, who shot a 73, may have re-injured his left wrist hitting out of some deep rough on 15. This was his first event in more than a year after extensive surgery on his wrist. He wrote on Twitter that he got some therapy after his round and planned to ice every hour but will not know how bad it is until he warms up Friday morning. ... Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old from China who made the cut at the Masters, opened with a 73. ... Matt Bettencourt withdrew because of illness after shooting a 39 on the front nine.

TPC Southwind: Round 1
Easiest hole Toughest hole

The par-5 16th hole was the easiest with a Thursday scoring average of 4.419.
Eagles: 9 | Birdies: 86 | Pars: 47| Bogeys: 12 | Others: 1

The par-3 14th was the toughest hole with a Thursday scoring average of 3.374.
Eagles: 0 | Birdies: 9 | Pars: 93 | Bogeys: 39 | Others: 14

About the leaders
• Davis Love III opened his 11th appearance at the FedEx St. Jude Classic with a 4-under 66, giving him six straight rounds in the 60s at this event, including four in 2012 en route to a T3 finish.
• This represents the 25th time Love has held/shared the first-round lead on the PGA TOUR. He has gone on to win four times (1991 and 1992 Heritage, 1997 PGA Championship, 2003 The INTERNATIONAL) in those events. Prior to this week, Love’s last first-round lead/co-lead was at the 2012 Honda Classic (finished T21).
• Love, a 20-time PGA TOUR winner, is making his 670th start this week. In addition, he owns 30 runner-up finishes and 16 third-place finishes (including last year’s T3 in Memphis).
• Counting this week, number of times each player has led/shared the first-round lead and number of ensuing wins: Davis Love III (25/4), Stuart Appleby (10/3), Glen Day (10/0), Nathan Green (4/0), Martin Flores (1/0), Harris English (1/0).
• Stuart Appleby carded a 4-under 66 in his 451st PGA TOUR start. He holds at least a share of the first-round lead for the first time since the 2011 Sony Open in Hawaii (finished T13) and for the 10th time in his career. He carried that lead on to victory at the 2003 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, 2004 Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the 2006 Shell Houston Open.
• Like Appleby, Glen Day holds the lead for the 10th time in his TOUR career, with a T2 at the 1998 PLAYERS Championship his best eventual finish. His last lead after the first round came at the 2005 B.C. Open (T13). Day is making his 455th TOUR start, with 18 coming at the FedEx St. Jude Classic (best finish was third in 1998).
• Making his 200th TOUR start, Nathan Green posted an opening-round 66 (the only bogey-free round of the day). He is making his fifth start at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, with a T14 in 2009 his best finish. A third-round 65 en route to a T25 in 2010 is Green’s best round at TPC Southwind. This marks the fourth first-round lead/co-lead of his career, with a T12 at the 2010 Honda Classic his best eventual finish.
• Making his 75th PGA TOUR start, Martin Flores opened with a 4-under 66 in his third-career appearance at the FedEx St. Jude Classic (MC-2010, T13-2012). A year ago, Flores improved each day with rounds of 72-70-69-65 to finish T13. He is making his 16th start of the season, with a T10 at the Valero Texas Open his lone top-10 finish. This marks the first time he has held the lead after any round on TOUR.
• Like Flores, this marks the first time Harris English has led after any round on the PGA TOUR. He is making his first start at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.