Goldberg, Lovemark share lead at WNB Golf Classic

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Aaron Goldberg carded a 66 Thursday to share the overnight lead with 2010 Player of the Year Jamie Lovemark.
September 20, 2012
Joe Chemycz, Tour staff

MIDLAND, Texas -- Aaron Goldberg and Jamie Lovemark fired 6-under 66s and share the first-round lead at the Tour's WNB Golf Classic in Midland, Texas.


New Zealand lefty Tim Wilkinson, and Seattle-area natives Andres Gonzales and Luke List are one shot back after the opening round at Midland Country Club. List is No. 2 on the money list and looking to retake the lead over Casey Wittenberg, who is not entered this week.

Seven players are knotted at 4-under 68 including Michael Putnam, Justin Hicks, two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton and Monday qualifier Morgan Hoffmann. Another 13 players are jammed in at 3-under 69.

Goldberg stuck to his game plan Thursday morning and focused on his strength, hitting fairways -- he ranks T6 in the category in 2012.

"If you're anywhere in these fairways you can work with the wind and hit a shot into the pin," said Goldberg, who is T117 in average driving distance (284.4). "I hit fewer drivers today because 3-wood and hybrid fits the doglegs a little bit better. Some of these guys that are longer than me can cover the doglegs and just blow it over it. I can't do that so I've got to try and fit it into the doglegs."

Goldberg hit 13 of 14 fairways and took advantage of solid iron play to match his second-best start in 22 tournaments this year.

"If you get off the fairways you're in the trees and the rough," he said. "I put myself in good position. I didn't do anything crazy and just took advantage of some par-5s."

Goldberg didn't nearly take advantage of the longer holes the way Lovemark did.

The 2010 Player of the Year played the quartet of par-5s 6-under par, rolling in two birdie putts and chipping in twice for eagle.

"My chipping, putting and short game has been awful," said Lovemark. "It's usually the best part of my game and something happened, I'm not really sure what but it's been by the worst part of my game. I've tried to adjust to it. I hope it's getting better and today was a step in the right direction."

Lovemark continues on the road to recovery after having back surgery last August to correct a herniated disc. The former Southern California All-America also decided it was time for some shock therapy on the greens and he opted to use a belly putter for only the second time in his career.

"I made all my 10-footers. I made all my putts inside of 10 feet, which is awesome," he said. "This whole year I've been missing my six-to-eight footers and not really getting much going but today I made some nice putts to save par."

First-Round Notes

• Thursday weather: sunny skies. Winds S 10-15 mph with gusts to 20 mph. High of 94 degrees.

• The WNB Golf Classic is the 22nd of 27 events on the 2012 Tour schedule.

Jerod Turner (82) withdrew after completing the first round.

• This week's field features 23 of the top-25 money winners in 2012 and 54 of the top-60. The only players in the top-25 not competing in Midland are No. 1 Casey Wittenberg and No. 18 Hudson Swafford.

• This is the second this year, and the second time in his career, that Aaron Goldberg has held/shared the first-round lead. Goldberg was a co-leader at the Cox Classic presented by Lexus of Omaha earlier this summer, firing a 9-under 62 to share the lead with Luke Guthrie and Bubba Dickerson.

• This is the first time in his Tour career that Jamie Lovemark has held/shared the lead after the first, second or third rounds. The only time he's been on top of a leaderboard came at the 2010 Mexico Open, where he defeated B.J. Staten in a playoff to collect his first Tour win.

Aaron Goldberg, one of 13 players to start all 21 tournaments this year, has made the cut in 13 starts and ranks No. 53 on the money list. His best finishes are a T6 at the Mexico Open and a T9 at the Panama Claro Championship.

Jamie Lovemark had back surgery after nine events in his rookie season on the PGA TOUR in 2011 and started 2012 on a Major Medical Extenstion. Coupled with 2011 earnings ($34,693), he had 16 events to make $633,473, equaling No. 125 from the 2011 PGA TOUR money list to extend his extension through the remainder of the season. The John Deere Classic was his 16th start and only a victory would have allowed him to continue. He was tied for eighth after 54 holes but finished T45 with a 75 on the last day to lose his TOUR card.

Jamie Lovemark has made four cuts in seven Tour starts this year with his best finish a T11 at the Midwest Classic presented by Cadillac. He entered the week No. 142 on the money list.

Jamie Lovemark had a pair of eagles on par-5s Thursday. He eagled No. 2 and No. 15 by chipping in on both holes.

• Luke Guthrie, winner of last week's Albertsons Boise Open, fired an even-par 72. He is currently T57.

• Players who were bogey-free in round one: 68 -- Shane Bertsch 69 -- Brice Garnett 70 -- Derek Lamely

• Oklahoma State All-American Morgan Hoffmann shot a 62 on Monday to qualify this week. It was the fourth time this year Hoffmann has been successful in the open qualifier. Hoffmann also qualified for The Rex Hospital Open (T56), United Leasing Championship (T4) and Cox Classic (T59). He received sponsor exemptions in other events and has made seven total starts this year. He is No. 103 on the money list. Hoffmann shot a 4-under 68 and is one of seven players tied for sixth place, two shots off the lead.

• There are six past champions entered this week. Kevin Johnson won the event when it was contested at the Club at Mission Dorado in Odessa. Tag Ridings was the first to win the tournament when it shifted to its current location (Midland CC) in 2002:

2000 Kevin Johnson 70 (-2) 2002 Tag Ridings 69 (-3) 2003 D.J. Brigman 69 (-3) 2007 Brad Adamonis 71 (-1) 2010 Nate Smith 69 (-3) 2011 Danny Lee 72 (E)

Danny Lee, winner here in 2011, becomes the first champion to return to try and defend his title since 2004 title holder Charley Hoffman came back in 2005.

• Over the years, only nine of 20 WNB Golf Classic champions (including Danny Lee) have returned the following year to try and defend their title. Of the previous eight who came back, only two made the 36-hole cut -- Franklin Langham, 1993 winner, T26 in 1994, Charley Hoffman, 2004 winner, T63 in 2005. There have been four past winners who have never returned to play in this event -- Chad Campbell (2001), Brandt Snedeker (2006), Marc Leishman (2008) and Garrett Willis (2009).

• This is the 11th year that the tournament has been held at Midland Country Club and Thursday's first-round scoring average of 72.494 marks the sixth time in 11 years that the average has been over par. The highest first-round averages at MCC since 2002:

Highest first-round averages at Midland CC
Year Average To par
2004 75.000 +3.000
2006 73.923 +1.923
2008 72.778 +0.778
2012 72.506 +0.506
2003 72.413 +0.413
2010 72.269 +0.269

• The opening-round scoring average of 72.506 marked only the third time in the last nine events that the average was above-par. The scoring average is the highest of the three and the highest since the first day of the United Leasing Championship, where the average for the par-72 course was 73. 869.

Event Par Scoring
To par
WNB Golf Classic par-72 72.506 +0.506
Nationwide Children's Hospital Inv par-71 71.313 +0.313
Midwest Classic par-71 71.175 +0.175

• In the first seven tournaments in 2012, there were 15 single rounds which had an over-par scoring average. In the past 14 tournaments, there have been only 11 single rounds with an over-par scoring average (including today).

• Course statistics this week:

Front 9 (36) Back 9 (36) Total (72)
Round 1 36.160 36.346 72.506

• The Tour moves to east next week for the Chiquita Classic in suburban Charlotte, N.C. The tournament will be held September 24-30 at The Club at Longview in Weddington, moving there after being held near Cincinnati the past two years. Last year Russell Knox cruised to a three-stroke win at TPC River's Bend, finishing at 25-under par for his first career title.