Sep 20, 2007 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
With a magical wedge, Jeff Gove stormed to the top of the leaderboard at the inaugural Turning Stone Resort Championship.
And with accurate irons and a red-hot putter, Chad Campbell joined him.
Gove and Campbell each posted seven-under-par rounds of 65 at the Atunyote Golf Club in Verona, taking full advantage of good scoring conditions — sunshine, soft fairways and greens, little wind — to lead Matthew Goggin, Steve Flesch, Brenden de Jonge and John Senden by one shot after Thursday’s opening round.
Never a winner on the PGA Tour, Gove, a 36-year-old journeyman from Seattle, teed off in the morning and stormed out with birdies on five of his first eight holes before turning in 32.
More birdies followed, on 11 (a 40-foot putt) and 12, and Gove reached six under. He bogeyed the 13th, then recorded a string of pars before reaching the 623-yard par-5 18th.
Not able to get close to the green in two, Gove hit two solid shots to wedge range. Then, from 100 yards out, his approach landed behind the hole, then spun back hard and crashed into the cup for an eagle.
Gove is 152nd on the PGA Tour money list and needs a strong effort in the Tour’s “Fall Series” to maintain his card for 2008. He hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation, a reflection of the fact that he ranks second on Tour with a greens-in-regulation percentage of 70.3.
Campbell, meanwhile, is of much more well-known stock. He has won three times on Tour, including the Tour Championship in 2003, and has played in two Ryder Cups. He also likes Upstate New York, having contended until the 72nd hole of the 2003 PGA Championship at Oak Hill in suburban Rochester before Shaun Micheel beat him.
Paired in the afternoon with Senden, Campbell quickly strung together four birdies on holes 4 through 8, then made a clutch par putt at 9 that sent him out in 32, just like Gove.
Keeping his putter hot, Campbell made a long birdie putt at 10, a par save at 11 and an eight-footer for birdie at 12 to get to six under before bogeying 13.
That would be Campbell’s last mistake. At the par-3 16th, his iron stuck two feet from the hole for an easy birdie. And on 18, the same hole where Gove made his dramatic eagle, Campbell’s wedge again went inside three feet for a birdie to tie Gove’s 65.
Everywhere, the feeling among players was to go low, or else. In all, 89 of the 144 players in the field broke par.
Flesch’s 66 might have been even better had he not made a double bogey on the par-4 9th, perhaps the toughest hole on the course. Goggin was seven under before making a mess of 18 and carding a bogey.
Senden, from Australia, was just as hot as his playing partner Campbell, using birdies at 16 and 17 to move near the front. And at day’s end, de Jonge, a South African, used an eagle on the par-5 8th hole (his 17th of the day) to get near the front.
John Rollins, who won the last B.C. Open at Atunyote in July 2006, is in strong contention again after an opening 67. Robert Allenby, Tag Ridings, John Mallinger and Matt Hendrix all matched Rollins’s 67.
Even the local favorites joined in the birdie festival. Playing early, Oswego’s David Branshaw shot 68, and Horseheads’ own Joey Sindelar also got a 68. Eric Manning, the club professional born in New Hartford, managed his own 69.
The only sour note came when John Daly, expected to draw the biggest galleries of the week, withdrew after seven holes, due to what was described as “flu-like symptoms”.
Play starts again at Atunyote Friday morning at 7:15 a.m., with the cut to be made after the round to the low 70 and ties. With beautiful weather forecast the rest of the week, the low scoring is likely to continue.