North Plains, Ore. – Two players who are on the outside looking in at their quest for a PGA TOUR card, Kent Bulle of Thunderbolt, Ga. (pictured by Getty Images) and Matt Fast of Jackson, Miss., share the lead after the first round of the WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft, the 21st and final Regular Season event on the Web.com Tour. The pair of Southerners fired 8-under-par 63s at the Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge.
Two shots back at 65 is 2012 Jack Nicklaus Award winner Michael Kim out of the University of California-Berkeley. He was the leader after the morning play, putting up seven birdies and one bogey. He missed three putts of five feet or less.
Seven players are another shot back at 66.
On Sunday, the first 25 of 50 PGA TOUR cards for the upcoming 2014-15 season will be determined.
Another key focus for the players this week is getting to 75th or better on the money list as it will ensure a spot in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals at which the second set of 25 cards will be up for grabs.
Bulle did not get a spot in this week’s 156-man field until noon on Monday. The 25-year-old came to Portland 174th on the Web.com Tour money list. Were he to claim the $144,000 first prize on Sunday, current projections indicate he would secure the 25th and final card.
“I’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose,” Bulle said. “It’s free up, go play and try and win the golf tournament.”
Bulle’s round included an eagle on the 4th hole courtesy of a 50-foot putt, seven birdies and a bogey on the 10th.
The 2011 Middle Tennessee State grad has made just two Web.com Tour starts this year. The first came at the South Georgia Classic in his home state after he successfully Monday qualified. That week’s tie for 19th made him eligible for the following week’s BMW Charity Pro-Am, where he finished tied for 50th.
Fast found comfort in knowing he would be spending the week with his two sisters, Lauren and Jayme, both of whom moved to Portland for the “northwest music scene”, according to their brother. With Lauren watching Matt play golf for the first time, the 2009 Mississippi State grad who was born in Baton Rouge, La. rang up eight birdies and not a single bogey. Sister Jayme is coming out on Friday.
Fast is 91st in earnings and in need of a good week to advance to the Web.com Tour Finals. “I just know I have to play well,” he said. “It’s not life or death. I feel like I’m going to get out there (PGA TOUR) eventually. If it’s this year or I have to go back to Q-School, that the way it is.”
Meanwhile, Kim, who is 50th on the money list, has his own relaxed view of what is generally thought to be one of the more stressful weeks in the life of a Web.com Tour player. “It doesn’t really matter how well I do this week unless I win. So I’m playing to win, and if I don’t win I still have the Finals to look forward to beginning next week.”
Australian Rod Pampling grabbed the lead at 7 under through 16 holes after stringing together consecutive birdies on 17, 18 and the first four holes of his back nine in the afternoon. A late double bogey-bogey combination dented his round and he finished with a 67.
FIRST ROUND NOTES:
* Eligibility for this week’s field of 156 players correlates directly with the current money list. Cameron Percy, winner of the Price Cutter Charity Championship two weeks ago and No. 13 on the money list, is the only player in the top-25 not playing this week. Four others in the top-75 are also skipping this event – Bronson Burgoon (No. 36), Alistair Presnell (No. 44), Tom Gillis (No. 47) and Aron Price (No. 52).
* The top-25 money leaders after Sunday’s play will receive their PGA TOUR cards for the upcoming 2014-15 season. The second set of 25 cards will be awarded at the conclusion of the four-event Web.com Tour Finals, which begin next week at the Hotel Fitness Championship in Fort Wayne, Ind.
* Co-leader Kent Bulle (BULL) is making just his third start on the Web.com Tour this year and his fourth overall. Bulle was a Monday qualifier at the South Georgia Classic and his T19 finish earned him a start at the BMW Charity Pro-Am two weeks later (T50). His only other Tour start was a missed cut at the 2011 News Sentinel Open.
* Bulle came into the week No. 174 on the money list with $8,875 in the bank. He was the seventh alternate on Sunday night and the second alternate by Monday morning. He got into the event shortly thereafter and was in the Portland area in time for a practice round on Tuesday.
* Bulle started the year on the PGA TOUR Latino America. He made five cuts in seven starts and had a pair of top-10 finishes. His last start on that Tour was in late May and he is currently No. 26 on the Tour’s Order of Merit.
* Bulle, 25, is from Glasgow, Kentucky and a 2011 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, where he was a two-time Academic All-American.
* Co-leader Matt Fast, 27, is a 2009 graduate of Mississippi State University and is in his first full season on the Web.com Tour. Fast has made eight cuts in 19 starts this year with his best week a T9 at the weather-shortened WNB Golf Classic in April. Fast entered this week No. 91 on the money list after finishing T39 at the Price Cutter Charity Championship and T30 at the News Sentinel Open the past two weeks.
* Fast’s 8-under 63 is a career low for him on Tour. His previous career/season best was 65, which he posted three times – 7-under 65, R3, WNB Golf Classic; 7-under 65, R2, Price Cutter Charity Championship; 6-under 65, R1 News Sentinel Open.
* Round statistics for the co-leaders:
Matt Fast 11 of 13 fairways 16 of 18 greens 29 putts
Kent Bulle 8 of 13 fairways 13 of 18 greens 24 putts
* Michael Kim, solo third after the opening round with a 6-under 65, is one of the youngest players on the Web.com Tour. The 20-year old was born in South Korea but grew up in the San Diego area and attended Torrey Pines High School. He left the University of California-Berkeley and turned professional last December shortly after finishing Q-School. He now lives in Houston, Tex., with his brother.
* Kim finished T14 at the Stonebrae Classic and T2 at the Price Cutter Charity Championship in his last two starts. He has made seven cuts in 12 starts and is No. 50 on the money list.
* Kim’s Los Angeles-based instructor is James Oh, a Web.com Tour winner in 2003 at Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. He visited Oh after missing the cut in Kansas City, before heading to Stonebrae. “He said there wasn’t much wrong with my swing. I just needed to get comfortable. I’ve been on a decent run since then.”
Witch Hollow at Pumpkin Ridge is one of three 2014 Web.com Tour venues Kim has played before. He competed in the 2013 PAC 12 Preview tournament in the fall. The other familiar course will be Ohio State’s Scarlet Course at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship.
* Kim hit 10 of 13 greens, 15 of 18 fairways and had 28 putts.
*James Nitties fired a 5-under 66 is T4 heading into Friday. Nitties came to Portland No. 97 on the money list.
“It’s been an unsatisfactory year. This week, it’s win big or go home,” Nitties said. “I sort of have nothing to lose. It’s calculated aggression, I suppose.”
* Leading money winner Carlos Ortiz fired a 5-under 66 and is T4 after the opening round. Ortiz started the week with a $50,965 edge over No. 2 Andrew Putnam (70/T70).
* Steve LeBrun recorded a hole-in-one on his second hole of the morning. LeBrun aced the 173-yard 2nd hole using a 7-iron. He went on to shoot a 3-under 68 and is T21.
* Australian Rod Pampling enjoyed a streak of six birdies in a row during his round of 4-under 67. Pampling started his string at the 17th hole and was at 7-under par when he two-putted the par-5, 4th hole.
“I I hadn’t played too bad up to there,” he said. “It’s nice to have six in a row. It doesn’t happen too often, does it?”
Pampling ran into trouble at the 7th hole when his tee shot found the trees down the right and he was forced to take a penalty stroke for an unplayable lie. He wound up with a double bogey and then three-putted the next hole for bogey.
“It was a bonus to get six in a row and disappointing to make double but I’m still in a good spot,” he said. “Three more days to go and I didn’t use all my luck up. Four under is a good score here.”
* Bogey-free rounds this week:
63 – Matt Fast
66 – Byron Smith, Nicholas Lindheim
69 – David Skinns
* Scoring Averages for the week:
Front (36) Back (35) Total (71)
R1 36.308 34.756 71.064
* All four rounds of the WinCo Foods Portland Open will be televised in high definition on Golf Channel.
* NEXT WEEK: The Web.com Tour heads to Fort Wayne, Ind., for the start of the four-tournament Web.com Tour Finals. The first event will be the Hotel Fitness Championship, which will be held at Sycamore Hills Golf Club, Aug. 28-31. Last year, former Masters champion Trevor Immelman rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to finish at 20-under 268, one stroke better than rookie Patrick Cantlay. Immelman was five strokes back starting the final round and moved to the top thanks to a 6-under 66. The win was his first since capturing the 2008 Masters.
|Matt Fast||63 (-8)|
|Kent Bulle||63 (-8)|
|Michael Kim||65 (-6)|
|Seven players tied at||66 (-5)|
Source: PGA Tour