Columbus, OH – Derek Fathauer (pictured by Getty Images) fired an 8-under 63 and moved into the first-round lead at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, the third of four Web.com Tour Finals events.
Fathauer was bogey-free and stress-free as he toured the Scarlet Course at the Ohio State University Golf Club and took a one-stroke lead over Andrew Loupe, who chalked up nine birdies on the day but missed one at the final hole from just about three feet.
Blayne Barber, winner of the South Georgia Classic, birdied all four par-3s Thursday afternoon and finished with a 6-under 65, good for solo third.
Vaughn Taylor, Tony Finau and John Rollins all carded 5-under 66s to share fourth place.
Tag Ridings, Mark Hubbard, Justin Thomas and Johnson Wagner are at 67 and round out the top-10.
Fathauer moved to front of the pack early Thursday, capitalizing on accuracy off the tee and from the fairway.
“I hit a lot of good golf shots today. I was kind of hitting it where I was looking so I almost didn’t see the pins out there,” he said. “I was picking spots. With the slopes on these greens, you kind of have to play it off the slopes and away from the pins and let it feed in there. Just take your 30-footer.”
Unless you happen to hit it close enough to drop eight birdie putts and none of any sizable distance.
Fathauer finished No. 13 on the Tour’s regular season money list which assured him a spot on the PGA TOUR for the upcoming 2014-15 season, which is pretty impressive considering the 28-year old Floridian was contemplating a career change in the off-season. He had made only eight cuts in 20 starts, had only a pair of top-25 finishes and lost all status after finishing No. 109 on the money list.
“I wasn’t enjoying golf. I wasn’t having fun. I was miserable,” he said. “I wasn’t doing all the right things. I wasn’t practicing right. My sleep habits were bad. I didn’t have any structure in my life. I had all that stuff in college and right when I left, but it’s slowly gotten worse and worse every year.”
Fathauer went back to the drawing board in January. He called in family and friends for advice.
“I don’t know what I’m qualified to do so I was asking a few people for help. I needed to really look at all that stuff and improve and come up with a plan or find something else to do,” he said. “I took a week and then I just went totally 180. I went to the gym, went and got a lesson, everything.”
The results have been dramatic and instantaneous. The former Louisville Cardinal has made 17 cuts in 21 starts, has 13 top-25 finishes, including a playoff runner-up effort at the Nova Scotia Open in July.
Loupe made a late rally with birdies at 15, 16 and 17 and lipped out a short one on the last hole that would have tied him for the lead.
“That golf course is not easy. I have a great deal of respect for it,” said Loupe, who finished his rookie season at No. 137 on the FedExCup points list. “I guess I was able to keep it in front of me and caught a little draw today, which I think helps for the most part. I was able to roll a few in today – a few mid-range jumpers and one that was pretty long (30 feet on No. 3). I had a ton of looks”
* Derek Fathauer matched the tournament course record with his 8-under-par 63 on Thursday and also posted his career-low round on the Web.com Tour. His previous low was a 64 at the 2009 Miccosukee Championship which he later matched at the 2013 Utah Championship. He also posted a 64 at the PGA TOUR’s 2009 The 50th Bob Hope Classic.
* Fathauer joined Jonathan Kaye (2010), James Sachek (2011) and Trevor Murphy with 63s in this event.
* This marks the first time Derek Fathauer has led or shared the first-round lead in 72 starts on the Web.com Tour. His previous best showing after the opening round was a T2 at the 2012 Soboba Golf Classic.
* Derek Fathauer’s best finish on the Web.com Tour came earlier this year at the Nova Scotia Open when he lost in a one-hole playoff to Roger Sloan.
* So far in 2014, five of 23 first-round leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win the event in which they led. Adam Hadwin did so last week at the Chiquita Classic where he owned a two-stroke advantage after the first round.
* Byron Smith made the second ace of his Web.com Tour career when he used 6-iron from 190 yards on No. 8 on Thursday. His previous hole in one came at the 2013 Chitimacha Louisiana Open. It was the 23rd ace on the Web.com Tour this year and the fifth in tournament history. The others came on No. 8 (2010 by Camilo Benedetti) and No. 13 — Kelly Grunewald (2007), Paul Claxton (2011) and Kris Blanks (2013).
* Sung Kang ran his string of consecutive holes without a three-putt to 220, the best current streak on Tour.
* Blayne Barber birdied all four par-3 holes on the Ohio State University Scarlet Course on Thursday. One of those came on No. 17 when he holed out from a bunker from 45 feet. He sank an 8-footer on No. 8, a 10-footer on No. 13 and a 30-footer on No. 13.
* Derek Fathauer, Taylor Vaughn, Tag Ridings, Mark Hubbard and Michael Kim all posted bogey-free rounds. In fact, Kim’s card included 17 pars.
* Ryan Armour, a former Ohio State All-American, opened with a 1-over-par 72.
* The first-round scoring average was 71.365. A year ago the field averaged 71.798 in the opening round.
* Trevor Immelman was forced to withdraw prior to the start of his first round due to back issues, while John Peterson withdrew following his round.
* Scoring Averages for the week:
Front (36) Back (35) Total (71)
R1 36.087 35.278 71.365
* NEXT WEEK: The Web.com Tour heads to Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, for the season-ending Web.com Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass. The tournament will be held at the Dye’s Valley Course Sept. 18-21. At the conclusion of 72 holes, the Web.com Tour will hand out a total of 50 PGA TOUR cards for the upcoming 2014-15 season, which begins in October. Last year, Chesson Hadley fired a 1-under 69 in the final round to win by two strokes over Brad Fritsch, Scott Gardiner, John Peterson and Brendon Todd. Hadley’s win was his second of the year (Rex Hospital Open) and the first-place check of $180,000 moved him up to No. 3 on the Final Priority Ranking. John Peterson was the overall winner in the Finals thanks to four top-5 finishes and edged out Hadley for honors by $567.