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Fort Wayne, Ind.  – Ryan Blaum (pictured by Getty Images) kicked off the Web.com Tour Finals with some fireworks on Thursday afternoon at Sycamore Hills Golf Club. The 2013 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order or Merit winner fired a bogey-free, eight-under 64 to take the first-round lead at the Hotel Fitness Championship.

One back is Australia’s Greg Chalmers and Tom Hoge after opening 65s.

Derek FathauerBud Cauley, Sam SaundersTony Finau, and Dicky Pride all posted 66s and are two off the pace.

The Web.com Tour Finals are comprised of four tournaments that match Web.com Tour and PGA TOUR players in a competition for 50 PGA TOUR cards for the 2014-15 season.

Blaum didn’t have a score in mind entering the day. The former Duke Blue Devil simply checked out the leaderboard and noticed that quite a few players in the morning wave were going low. Late last week Sycamore Hills GC received a little more than 11 inches of rain, but Blaum was quick to praise the staff for the setup on Thursday.

“I think it was playing excellent,” he said. “Overall I think the course is in great shape.”

The scorecard may have been blemish-free, but Blaum’s round wasn’t without its challenges. The Web.com Tour rookie made two great par saves from the sand on both par-3s on the back nine. Perhaps the biggest up and down came from greenside on No. 13 where Blaum two-putted from 100 feet for par.

“It was a really hard putt,” he said. “It was one I could have easily knocked off the green,”

In Oregon last week, Blaum had a chance to earn his TOUR card with a good showing at the WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft. The 30-year-old pro missed the cut but was able to take some positives away which helped prepare him for this week. Blaum is competing on Tour for the 10thweek in a row, so a weekend off meant time to work on his fundamentals and recharge his batteries heading into The Finals.

“It’s hard to practice when you’re trying to rest,” he said. “I missed the cut last week, which I think was kind of a good thing for me.”

Blaum has played well at times this season taking a share of the lead into the second round twice, at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open and the Stonebrae Classic, and finished T11 both times. Blaum’s experience from those two weeks can play a pivotal role in how he approaches the second round.

“The fact that I’ve done it before this year helps,” he said. “I think I can learn from those situations and just keep my head down tomorrow.”

Chalmers started his round with two consecutive birdies. The 40-year-old pro also played the par-3s at Sycamore Hills GC in three-under. Chalmers’ iron game wasn’t the only thing dialed in as he missed only one fairway in his opening round. Overall the Colleyville, Texas resident was satisfied with his score on Thursday.

 “It’s out there if you drive it in play,” he said. “I think birding three of the par-3s out here was a solid effort.”

This performance comes at a great time for Chalmers, who has been a little down on his game this year. The two-time Web.com Tour graduate competed in 27 events this year on TOUR and missed the cut 10 times. A stress-free round that places Chalmers near the lead gives him a much needed boost in confidence heading into the second round.

“I’m more excited about the fact that this is the lowest round I‘ve shot in a little while,” he said. “It hasn’t been the best year for me.”

FIRST ROUND NOTES:

* There were a total of 129 players who teed it up on the opening round today, the same number as last year.

* Here’s a comparison of the opening round the past two years:

first-round leader  64   64
# players w/ scores in 60s  52  44
# players below par 82 71
# players at par-or-better 91 89
scoring average 70.667  71.023

RYAN BLAUM –

* Ryan Blaum is in his first full season on the Web.com Tour. He made the cut in 14 of 19 starts with eight top-25 finishes. He has only one top-10 to date – a solo seventh at the Rex Hospital Open. He finished the regular season No. 31 on the money list.

* Blaum, 30, is a 2006 graduate of Duke University. He was born in South Florida and still makes his home in the area.

* Blaum has made eight career starts on the PGA TOUR since turning pro in 2007. In his only start this year, he missed the cut at the U.S. Open.

* This is the first time the Blaum has held the outright lead on the Web.com Tour. He shared the 18-hole lead at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open (T11) and the Stonebrae Classic (T11) earlier this year.

* Blaum finished the 2013 season No. 1 on the PGA TOUR LatinoAmerica Tour’s Order of Merit. He had seven top-10 finishes in 13 starts and won twice and was runner-up twice.

GREG CHALMERS –

* Australian Greg Chalmers completed his 13th full season on the PGA TOUR this year. He made 16 cuts in 27 starts and had four top-25 finishes. His lone top-10 was a T10 at the McGladrey Classic last November. Chalmers ended the regular season No. 132 on the FedExCup Points list.

* Chalmers, who lives in Colleyville, Texas (Dallas area), will turn 41 on October 11.

* Chalmers spent three full seasons on the Web.com Tour (2005, 2007-08) and was a two-time winner. He earned his first win at the 2005 Albertsons Boise Open and his second at the 2008 Henrico County Open – both wins came in playoffs.

* Chalmers has held/shared the first-round lead three times in his PGA TOUR career – he was tied for the lead after the opening 18 holes at the 2009 U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee (T15) and the 2014 Valspar Championship (T44). He held the outright lead after the first day at the 2014 Quicken Loans National (T30).

JONATHAN RANDOLPH –

* Jonathan Randolph was cruising along at 7-under through 17 holes but stumbled with a double-bogey on the final when his second shot at the 419-yard hole found the water that hugs the left side of the hole. Randolph dropped out of a tie for the lead and into a tie for ninth place with his 5-under 67.

* Randolph is a rookie on the Web.com Tour this year. He made the cut in 10 of 17 starts and had four top-10 finishes. His best weeks were a runner-up effort at the BMW Charity Pro-Am and a pair of T3 weeks at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open and the El Bosque Mexico Championship. Randolph ended the regular season No. 16 on the money list and he will be a rookie on the upcoming 2014-15 PGA TOUR season.

* Randolph has made four career starts on the PGA TOUR – all of them coming at the Sander

BUD CAULEY –

* Bud Cauley, 24, has spent his first three seasons as a pro on the PGA TOUR. Cauley, a Jacksonville, Fla. resident, made the cut in nine of 19 starts this year and had four top-25 finishes. His only top-10 week came at The Greenbrier Classic where he finished T4. Cauley ended the regular season No. 143 on the FedExCup Points list.

* Cauley is making his ninth career start on the Web.com Tour and his second this year. He finished T29 at the El Bosque Mexico Championship in mid-April.

* Cauley is making his second starting in the Web.com Tour Finals. Last year, Cauley opened the Finals with a T5 finish at this event. He was one stroke off the lead after both the first and second rounds. Cauley also finished T44 at the Chiquita Classic, missed the cut at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational and T17 at the Tour Championship. He regained his PGA TOUR card by finishing No. 18 in the Finals Priority Ranking.

DEREK FATHAUER –

* Derek Fathauer was a member of the Web.com Tour this year and finished No. 13 on the regular season money list, which assured his a return trip to the PGA TOUR for the 2014-15 season. Fathauer played on TOUR in 2009 and made eight of 25 cuts and finished No. 201 on the FedExCup points list. His best week was a T22 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

* Fathauer has spent the last three years on the Web.com Tour. He made 15 cuts in 19 starts this year and had 11 top-25 finishes. He was a playoff runner-up to Roger Sloan at the Nova Scotia Open and tied for the third at the Panama Claro Championship. He made one start on the PGA TOUR this year – a T58 at The Honda Classic.

TONY FINAU –

* Tony Finau birdied his final five holes today (front nine) to finish at 6-under 66 (T4). Finau, winner of the Stonebrae Classic last month, had already penciled in a birdie and an eagle before the streak, which put him at 8-under 28 for his final nine holes. Finau is only the fourth player this year to post a 28 over nine holes:

28 (8-under)
28 (8-under)
28 (7-under)
28 (7-under)
Jon Curran, Brasil Champions
TONY FINAU, HOTEL FITNESS CHAMPIONSHIP
Fabian Gomez, Stonebrae Classic
T.J.Vogel, WinCo Foods Portland Open

* Finau shot a 66 despite not chalking up the most impressive ball-striking statistics – he managed to hit only 11 of 18 greens in regulation but offset that with only 24 putts. Finau opened his round on the back nine and bogeyed two of his first four holes. He also finished 3rd in driving distance today, with his two measured drives averaging 316.0 yards.

* Finau, another Web.com Tour rookie, has made 15 cuts in 19 starts and has four top-10 finishes and 11 top-25s. He finished the regular season No. 8 on the money list and will be heading to the PGA TOUR for the 2014-15 wraparound season, which begins in October.

“I hit some good shots on the front and obviously I didn’t score very well. I knew there was still a lot of golf to be played. I made about a 50-footer for eagle on No. 2, which was my 11th hole and that just kind of got me going. I just hit a lot of quality golf shots coming in, I didn’t have much more than four or five feet on my putts coming in. I just hit it really nicely coming down the stretch and my scorecard showed that I think.”

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES –

* Bud Cauley had a pair of eagles on par-5s today (Nos. 2, 15). Only one player had two eagles last year – Patrick Cantlay (Nos. 2, 12) in last year’s second round.

* Chase Wright, a 2012 Indiana University graduate, posted a 6-under 30 on the front nine.

* Matt Davidson (Nos. 11-4) and Rod Pampling (Nos. 12-15) both ran off a stretch of four birdies in a row.

* Tommy Gainey withdrew after the opening round due to a recurring right elbow problem.

* Darron Stiles opened with a 4-under 68 and is T18. Last year, Stiles started with a 4-over 76 and was T123 after the first day.

* Andres Gonzales leads the field with eight birdies after the opening round. Gonzales, winner of the Utah Championship in July, finished with a 4-under 68 (T18) thanks to a pair of double bogeys. Gonzales managed to hit only 8 of 14 fairways and 8 of 18 greens in regulation and 20 putts, including a three-putt for double bogey at No. 3. He started his day on the back nine and hit only three greens and had only seven putts to finish his first nine holes with a 3-under 33.

* Carlos Ortiz, the Web.com Tour’s leading money during the regular season and a three-time winner this year, matched his highest score of the year with a 4-over 76 (T120). Ortiz is making his 17th start of the year and has now played 53 rounds. His other 76 came in the second round of the United Leasing Championship in June in Evansville, Ind.

* Defending champion Trevor Immelman carded a one-under 71 on Thursday at Sycamore Hills GC and is T57. Last year Immelman fired an opening-round 67 that left him three back. Over the final 54 holes, Immelman posted 66-69-66 for a 20-under 268 total that earned him a one-stroke victory over Patrick Cantlay.

“The course is definitely playing harder than last year, there’s a lot more rough. The ball is not running as far in the fairways, so the course is playing a lot longer. I’m not sure the scores will be as low as last year, but four rounds in the 60s and you’re going to be pretty close. So, I’ll need to make up some ground. “

* Bogey-free rounds this week:

R1       64 – Ryan Blaum
65 – Greg Chalmers
66 – Derek Fathauer
67 – Vaughn Taylor
68 – Kris Blanks

* Scoring Averages for the week:

       Front (36) Back (35) Total (71)
R1
   35.031       35.992      71.023

* NEXT WEEK: The Web.com Tour heads to the Charlotte, NC area for the Chiquita Classic at River Run Country Club in Davidson. Last year, Andrew Svoboda two-putted the first extra hole to defeat Will MacKenzie in a playoff and earn his second win of the 2013 season. MacKenzie chipped in for eagle at the final hole to finish regulation play at 12-under and then waited as Svoboda squandered the lead with a bogey at No. 17 to force the second playoff in as many years at River Run. Ben Martin and John Peterson finished at 11-under, one shot back.

Source: PGA Tour

Author

Graham J Gordon, The Editor and Owner, GolfblogspotUK

The GolfblogspotUK website is owned and run by former Walker Cup player and European Tour card holder, Graham J Gordon, from Scotland, the Home of Golf. The owner is a golf fanatic who had to retire early from competitive tour play due to a back injury that required surgery. Graham wishes to share his knowledge and own experiences of the game with the GolfblogspotUK community and to receive your feedback on all aspects of the sport. Graham has been playing the game for over 20 years and received a great deal of pleasure from the sport. He has met several friends and visited many different places around the world, thanks to playing the great game of golf. Time to put a little back into the game to help others.

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