Andrew Novak rides hot putter to first-round lead at Emerald Coast Classic at Sandestin
April 01, 2021
By Zach Dirlam, PGATOUR.COM
- April 01, 2021
- Novak fired a 62 on Thursday to jump out to a four-stroke lead. (Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. – Andrew Novak compared his 8-under 62 in Thursday’s opening round of the Emerald Coast Classic at Sandestin to a shooting performance by fellow Wofford College alumnus Fletcher Magee, the all-time NCAA men’s basketball leader for made three-point field goals; he simply could not miss.
Novak, an avid basketball fan and accomplished intramural player at Wofford, made practically every putt he stood over. The Raleigh, North Carolina native ended his round at Raven Golf Club with 24 putts, highlighted by 12 one-putts and long-range makes at No. 14 (for birdie) and No. 17 (for eagle). When Novak collected his ball from the cup at the par-5 17th, he shook his head in disbelief.
“It was eight feet out and (I knew) it was going in the hole,” Novak said of his eagle putt, which he practically walked in. “There was nowhere it was going to go other than in. At that point, it was just silly. They were going in from everywhere.”
This is the second time in Novak’s three-season Korn Ferry Tour career he is leading after 18 holes. Novak previously held a one-stroke lead at the 2018 Rust-Oleum Championship following a 7-under 65.
Novak also tied the lowest round of his career, matching his 8-under 62 from the second round of the 2019 Country Club de Bogota Championship.
Novak earned his first career Korn Ferry Tour victory at last year’s LECOM Suncoast Classic, his final start prior to the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus. When Novak returned to Tour play four months later, his game was far from sharp. He missed cuts in 12 of his 16 starts after the restart, opened 2021 with a missed cut at the very event he won a year prior, and finished outside the top 30 the last two weeks.
Novak spent much of the offseason working on his swing and is pleased the results are starting to show.
“My short game was still good and I was making some putts, but I couldn’t play golf the way I was hitting it the last few months,” Novak said. “Offseason came at a really good time. I like how I’ve been playing. The last few weeks, scores haven’t been as low as they could’ve been, but I was executing shots how I wanted to.”
One of those shots? A hole-in-one at last week’s Club Car Championship at The Landings Club. Novak hit a 6-iron from 188 yards for his first hole-in-one since high school, when he hit the same club from the same yardage.
“It was a little into the wind last week,” Novak said. “It had been a while. I was due.”
Novak holds a four-stroke lead over Hayden Buckley, Austin Smotherman, and Monday qualifier Josh Hart, who carded 4-under 66s in the afternoon wave. It is the largest 18-hole lead since Conrad Shindler led by four after a 10-under 62 at the 2017 Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation.
Only three of the eight 3-under 67s came from the morning wave, which battled sustained winds of more than 20 miles per hour, gusts over 30 miles per hour, and temperatures in the 40s.
Second-round tee times will run from 6:50 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. local time Friday off the first and 10th tees.