Brown grabs Rex Hospital lead, ties course record

Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
Scott Brown has finished in the top 10 only once in nine starts this season, at the South Georgia Classic.
May 20, 2010
Joe Chemycz, PGA TOUR staff

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Scott Brown and Stephen Poole have a lot in common. The two are good friends, share May birthdays, room together on the road and haven't put together the best of seasons to date. Poole lives in Aiken, S.C., Brown attended the University of South Carolina-Aiken. The pair also happens to be 1-2 on the leaderboard after the opening round of The Rex Hospital Open, the 11th stop on the 2010 Nationwide Tour schedule.

Brown went out in the morning and equaled the TPC Wakefield Plantation course record with a 9-under 62. As the afternoon progressed, nobody got closer than Poole, who posted his season-low score, a 7-under 64.

"We'll have a good little skins game when we call off scores tonight," joked Poole, who tallied seven birdies during his bogey-free round.

Chris Kirk and Troy Kelly share third place at 6-under 65. Ben Bates, Andrew Buckle, John Douma, Scott Dunlap and John Reigger are in at 66 and four back of the leader.

Brown grabbed the top spot on the board with seven birdies, no bogeys and an eagle-3 at the par-5, 13th hole. His 3-wood stopped about two feet from the pin.

"It was just one of those days," he said after missing only one fairway and four greens. "I've had a few in my time but it's always nice. Your bad shots turn out good and your putts go in. To shoot rounds like that you've got to get some good breaks. I hit some shots today that weren't great but turned out great."

Brown hasn't had many great days in this, his rookie season. The 26-year old (he turns 27 on Saturday) has produced only one top-10 finish in nine starts, a solo eighth at the South Georgia Classic last month. He's made five cuts in nine starts but hasn't cashed a check in his last two tries.

"I've had a few good weeks and a few not-so-good weeks. I think I've been putting too much pressure on myself early in the year to do well," he said. "Last week I said I was just going to go out and play and have a good time and see what happens."

So far, so good for Brown, who missed the cut at last week's BMW Charity Pro-Am.

"It's probably my best round in a couple of years in competition," said the leader. "I just felt like I had total control of the golf ball. It doesn't happen very often where we get those days, but I was able to take advantage of it, too."

Brown looked like he would enjoy a four-stroke lead at the end of the round, until Kirk put his 65 on the board, followed by Poole's 64. Kelly added his 65 a few minutes later.

"Seeing him [Brown] go out there and do that, you know there are birdies to be had," said Poole, who has been rooming with Brown all season. "You know you have to go out there and make a couple just to keep pace."

Poole hasn't been keeping a good pace this year. The 27-year old (his birthday was May 1) has made only one cut in eight starts this year and has broken 70 only twice.

"It is tough, I'll be the first to say," he said. "You just keep grinding away at it. It's been good that I've been hitting the ball well and that I haven't been playing terrible all year. I've been playing pretty decent but just not scoring. I just stick with it and stay patient each week and know that at some point it's going to break and today it finally did."

Poole, like Brown, was never in any real danger of making a bogey during Thursday's opener. He rolled in a few birdie putts in the 10-15 foot range and never had a par putt longer than four feet.

"It's been coming for a long time," he said. "I've been hitting it well it seems like every week and it's just a matter of me getting the ball in the hole."

First-Round Notes

• Lift, clean and place conditions were in effect for today's round.

• When high school junior Grayson Murray teed off today he became the fifth-youngest play in a Nationwide Tour event. Murray is 16 years, 7 days and 19 months old. He finished with a 2-over 73 (T121) that included 33 putts.

• Brown equaled the TPC Wakefield Plantation course record with his 9-under 62 today. Rob Bradley set the mark in the final round in 2003. This was also Brown's career-best score, bettering a 65 he posted at the Panama CLARO Championship earlier this year.

• Brown's 62 today ties the lowest opening-18 hole score on Tour this year. Jim Herman posted a 10-under 62 at the Moonah Classic, where he led by four after the first day and he eventually went on to win in a playoff.

• Brown's 62 today is not the lowest first-round score in tournament history. Jimmy Green shot an 11-under 60 in the first round in 1998, when the tournament was contested at Raleigh Country Club.

• Andrew Buckle ran off six birdies in seven holes to close his opening nine today. Buckle started on the back nine with consecutive bogeys before starting his streak and making the turn at 4-under 32. He finished with a 5-under 66.

• Jim Herman (68) and David Morland IV (74) birdied three of the four par-3s today. Those were the only birdies of the day for Morland, winner of this event in 2003.

• There were a total of five eagles today, all of which came at the 587-yard, 13th hole: Brown, Troy Kelly, Steven Bowditch, Bradley Iles, Grayson Murray.

• Justin Hicks, a winner at last week's BMW Charity Pro-Am shot an even-par 71 (T82) today.

• Kevin Chappell, the leading money winner on Tour shot a 2-under-par 69 (T46).

• South Carolina's Tommy Gainey, who finished a career-best T2 last week, shot a 4-under 67 and is currently T10.

• Veteran Ben Bates, making his 400th career start on the Nationwide Tour, shot a 5-under 66 (T5) today, his lowest score since a third-round 65 at the 2008 Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open.

• A total of 81 players in the field of 156 broke par and 103 posted par-or-better scores today.

• The scoring average for the par-71 course was 70.505.