Monstrous tee shots, putting give Champ lead at Utah Championship
July 12, 2018
By Alex Wood, PGATOUR.COM
- July 12, 2018
- Texas A&M alum Cameron Champ shot 10-under 61 in the opening round at Oakridge CC. (Alex Wood/PGA TOUR)
FARMINGTON, Utah – Just one week after taking the first-round lead at the LECOM Health Challenge, Web.com Tour rookie Cameron Champ was back at it again, carding a 10-under 61 in the first round of the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank to pick up his third 18-hole lead of the season. Champ’s 61 came in dramatic fashion as the 23-year-old had a chance to finish birdie-birdie to card just the eighth sub-60 round in Tour history. While the score might not have been enough to add his name to the history books, it was enough to claim the solo lead in Farmington, Utah, besting Luke Guthrie, Martin Trainer and Steven Ihm by two strokes.
Champ was firing on all cylinders right away, carding three-straight birdies to begin his round. The former Walker Cup member cooled down for a bit, settling for par on Nos. 4-6 before picking up steam again at the par-5 seventh. He would pick up three more birdies to make the turn at 6-under 30. Champ made par on the par-4 10th before picking up a birdie at No. 11, the hole that would prove to be his biggest mental win of the round.
“I made two long (putts) today,” Champ remarked of his Thursday round, “and the one on No. 11 – I kind of pushed it right and had about a 65-footer and it went in. I think with rounds like this, you kind of have to have a little luck. My tee shot on No. 18 hit a tree and kicked right into the rough, so it was just kind of one of those days where luck was in my favor and I was able to take advantage of it.”
While Champ may call it luck, the stats behind his round point to skill. The California native led the field in driving distance (423 yards) and hit 11 of 14 fairways during the opening round. He landed 16 of 18 greens in regulation, enough to sit T3 out of 156 players. He was perfect in sand saves (1-for-1) and in scrambling (2-for-2).
“It suits me very well,” he said of Oakridge Country Club. “It’s kind of a (long hitter’s) heaven, I guess you could say, but you still have to hit the shots … The greens are good and the par 5s out here, you can take advantage of, and then some of the par 4s, with my distance, I can kind of do the same.”
Four consecutive top 10s coming into @UTChampionship.— Web.com Tour (@WebDotComTour) July 13, 2018
Today for @Cameron__Champ?
💪longest drive on Tour (estimated 430+ yards)
⛳️opening round 61 for two stroke lead pic.twitter.com/UJ2btaJbWG
Champ continued his birdie charge as he neared the closing stretch, making birdie on Nos. 13, 15 and 16 to begin to flirt with golf’s magical number. He needed just two birdies in his final two holes to post a 12-under 59, something he was thinking and trying to battle as he closed out the round.
“I controlled them the best I could,” he said of his emotions during the final two holes. “I think it was on No. 15 when I kind of figured that if I made that putt for eagle, I would only need two more (birdies) coming down the stretch. I missed that one but then made a good putt on No. 16 and then just kind of got it in the house those last two holes.”
Champ has come into strong form in the latter half of the Tour season, entering the week in the Beehive State fresh off four consecutive top-10 finishes and five straight top-25s. He sits at No. 27 on the Regular Season money list, with just five events left in the Regular Season upon the conclusion of this week.
“It’s been good,” Champ said of his rookie season. “A lot of ups and downs. The start of the season was very much a down point – I just couldn’t really get much going. Then about five or six weeks ago it just kind of clicked. That’s what me and my coach talk about a lot. (This game) is kind of like a wave. It just goes up and down, up and down, so when you’re going up you just have to try and stay there as long as possible. I feel like that’s where I’m at right now, and I just hope I can keep playing good.”