After equipment switch, Mulroy leads by one at South Georgia Classic

May 01, 2008
John Bush, PGA TOUR Staff

VALDOSTA, Ga. -- Thanks to recent equipment changes, Garth Mulroy opened with a 5-under 67 Thursday to take a one-shot lead at the $625,000 South Georgia Classic presented by First State Bank and Trust Co., the ninth of 30 official events on the Nationwide Tour.

Inside the Numbers
Mulroy thru 18 Holes
Category Total Rank
Eagles 0 N/A
Birdies 6 T1
Pars 11 T82
Bogeys 1 T130
Double Bogeys 0 N/A
Other 0 N/A
Driving Accuracy 71.4% T68
Driving Distance 299.5 yds. T49
Greens in Regulation 77.8% T12
Putts per Round 28.0 T23
Putts per GIR 1.643 12
Sand Saves 0.0% T50

Hunter Haas, Ben Bates, Bryan DeCorso and Chris Nallen all fired 4-under 68s to sit just one shot behind Mulroy, while David Miller and Vance Veazey are two shots off the pace.

Playing with the same set of irons he used during the 2007 season -- the set that helped him finish a career-best third at the Albertsons Boise Open -- Mulroy turned in a nearly flawless round on Thursday. He posted a stellar 4-under 32 on the front nine and stood at 6 under through 15 holes before his only bogey of the day at the par-4 16th hole.

"I put in new clubs (this year) and they haven't felt good," said Mulroy. "I've been messing around with different sets of irons the last month or two and I haven't been playing very well. Last week I switched back to the irons I used last year and I'm starting to hit it a little better now."

The opening three holes were crucial to Mulroy's successful day. He calmly drained a 12-foot par putt on the opening hole to ensure his day got off on the right foot. A 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 second hole was followed by the shot of the day on the par-4 third hole with a 5-iron to just 12 inches from the hole.

"I got off to a nice start with a 12-foot par putt on the first hole," said Mulroy. "Making that putt gave me a lot of confidence. Then the birdie on the third hole really got me going."

Mulroy, a 29-year-old native of Durban, South Africa, began the season with high hopes after finishing No. 35 on the 2007 Nationwide Tour money list and recording nine top-25 finishes. But the season has been rocky for the former North Carolina State University standout -- evidenced by four made cuts in seven starts and just one top-20 finish (tied for 11th place at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open).

"My season has not been good," said Mulroy, who won 12 tournaments on the Tar Heel Tour and Triangle Tour in 2002-03. "I just want to play well again. It hasn't been fun out here. I've been miserable."

In addition to the recent iron switch, perhaps Mulroy's misery will be a thing of the past due to a putter switch. After arriving at the Kinderlou Forest Golf Club with as many as five putters in his bag earlier this week -- a collection of regular, belly and long putters -- Mulroy eventually chose a long version in his attempt to conquer the Davis Love-designed undulating greens.

"I haven't used the long putter since last year but I put it in the bag this week and it was obviously a good decision on my part," said Mulroy. "I feel more comfortable with it because it helps me stand much taller. I think I see the line better with this one."

Mulroy used the same putter the latter half of the 2007 season until it turned balky at the Final Stage of q-school, resulting in a mid-tournament switch to the belly putter (he went on to finish 9 under the final two days of the six-day event) that was used to start the 2008 campaign. This season has seen him alternate between a belly putter and a short putter, before switching to the long putter in Valdosta.

First-Round News & Notes: The 7,781-yard par-72 Kinderlou Forest Golf Club, the longest course to host a PGA TOUR-sanctioned tournament (PGA TOUR, Nationwide Tour, Champions Tour), yielded a 73.325 average during the opening round. ... Jimmy Walker, who withdrew from the South Georgia Classic late Wednesday, received the final spot in the Wachovia Championship and opened with a 2-over 74 in Charlotte. ... Defending champion John Kimbell opened with a 4-over 76. ... Ronnie Black had a hole-in-one on the 176-yard eighth hole with a 6-iron. Bob May had an ace on the par-3 15th hole with a 3-iron from 251 yards, easily one of the longest aces in Tour history. The longest occurred at the 2003 Cox Classic when Chip Beck eagled the 315-yard par-4 ninth hole. It was the eighth and ninth ace of the season, and the second and third during the two-year history of the South Georgia Classic. ... Robert Damron, who recently won the Athens Regional Foundation Classic, withdrew on Thursday morning with a back injury.