Sunday, August 1, 2021

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Morrison goes out early and grabs lead in Pine Mountain

• This is a 72-hole, no-cut event. There will be playoffs, if necessary, for the medalist position and for the sixth and final position available.

• Players in this week’s field come from nine countries or regions (Australia, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States).

• Australia’s Travis Smyth is currently the 367th-ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking, easily the highest-ranked player in the field. In his last four starts on the PGA Tour of Australasia, he tied for fourth (Moonah Links PGA Classic), tied for eighth (The Players Series Sydney), tied for 12th Isuzu Queensland Open and tied for 16th at the Golf Challenge New South Wales Open. Toward the end of 2020, Smyth broke inside the OWGR top 300, at No. 296, when he tied for third at the ISPS Handa Vic Open in Victoria.

• Travis Smyth has played in two Korn Ferry Tour tournaments, accounting for his PGA TOUR-affiliated Tour experience. He missed one cut and made the other—at the 2019 Evans Scholars Invitation outside Chicago. A final-round 69 led to a tie for 53rd.

• Former U.S. Army Specialist Chris Erwin, who is now in the Army Reserves, opened the tournament in solid fashion, putting together a 4-under 66 leaving him tied for second after 18 holes. Erwin had a clean front nine, with three birdies and six pars. He went bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie on holes 10-14 then made four pars, and a birdie at the par-5 16th, for the 66. “I haven’t been able to play a ton of golf. But I was pretty steady today. Six birdies are always good, and my bogeys were just a couple of loose shots,” he said.

• Chris Erwin is one of the older players competing this week. After a college golf career at Valdosta State in Georgia that concluded in 2004, and a decade of mini-tour golf after that, Erwin joined the Army, working in intelligence and based at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. He also spent seven months on a combat mission in Syria after going to Advanced Individual Training at Fort Huachaca in Arizona. He is a father of four, with daughters ranging in age from 18 months to 13 years.

• Joey Savoie began this week’s tournament with a 1-over 71. He’s tied for 13th. He had a strong summer playing in his native Canada, on the Canada Life Series. In his three starts—one in British Columbia and two in metro Toronto—Savoie tied for second, tied for ninth and tied for fourth. He also posted a pair of 64s—in the final round of the first event at Bear Mountain and in the opening round of the final event at TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley.

• Of the 15 amateurs in the field this week, Alex Shead leads the way after day one. The Appling, Georgia, resident (200 miles from Pine Mountain) is tied for second, following a 4-under 66. The only other amateurs to break par on the opening day were Alexandre Fuchs (3-under) and Andrew Strother (1-under). Connor McKay and Tyler Copp all finished at even-par.

• Five players are tied for seventh, at 2-under: Americans Blake Morris, Joshua Goldenberg, Patrick Moriarty, Luke Schniederjans and Mexico’s Andres Caballero.

• This is Blake Morris’ fourth trip to Mackenzie Tour Qualifying Tournament. He tied for 44th in both 2016 and 2017 and tied for 65th in 2019.

• Andres Caballero’s lone PGA TOUR-affiliated Tour start came in 2013 while still an amateur. At the Mexican Open in Mexico City, he missed the cut.

• Luke Schniederjans’ has never played an official International Tours event or a Korn Ferry Tour tournament, but he does have two PGA TOUR starts on his resume—both of them coming during the 2020-21 season. Schniederjans, who plays out of The Golf Club of Georgia outside of Atlanta, missed the cut in both the Safeway Open and the Bermuda Championship.

• Amateur Alex Shead was one of the last players to finish Tuesday’s first round. The Augusta, Georgia native and former Augusta University player, was bogey-free, with a lone birdie on the front nine (No. 8) and three birdies on the back (Nos. 10, 13 and 17).

• The par-5 16th hole was the easiest hole at the Mountain Course on Tuesday. The stroke average was 4.713. There was only one eagle all day, and it came at No. 16. The most-difficult hole was No. 2. The par-4 played to an average of 4.617, yielding only two birdies among the 94 players.

• There were 23 under-par scores in the opening round.

Quotable

“I figured the number for the week – to get in the top six – wouldn’t be lower than 8. To shoot 5 in the first round lets me go play my game plan. I don’t feel like I have to press the rest of the way.” –Austin Morrison

“The highest my anxiety was in a long time was this morning. I used it to fuel me and keep me focused, especially on the front nine and then battled on the back nine.” –Austin Morrison

“It was exactly as you would draw it up: a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. I gave myself a lot of uphill puts. That’s really key out here, and luckily a few of them went in.” –Austin Morrison

“I usually like to play a little bit of a draw with my irons, and I didn’t seem to have that going on on the front. It kind of came back on the back a little bit. I was working on the technique a little between swings. It definitely got a lot better, and hopefully it stays for tomorrow.” –Patrick Cover

“There are some holes that tell you what to do. On the back (nine), they tell you to hit a draw, and you pretty much have to hit a draw to play the hole the right way. I like that. I like being able to work it both ways.” –Patrick Cover

“A lot of the holes you can hit a cut, which is what I usually do, but a couple of those holes tell you to hit a draw, so you definitely have to step up and make a good swing and play that hole the right way.” –Patrick Cover

“It was actually kind of a boring round. I hit a lot of greens and hit the ball really consistent today.” –Alex Shead

“I really only had two or three bad swings. [Wednesday], I just want to do the same thing—continue to play boring golf, hitting the greens. If I make birdies, great, but you don’t have to do anything special.” –Alex Shead

First-Round Weather: Warm and sunny, with a high of 80. Wind SE at 5-7 mph.

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