Overland Park, Kan. – Texan Paul Haley (pictured by Getty Imjages) carved out a 7-under-par 64 Thursday and grabbed a one-stroke lead in the Web.com Tour’s Midwest Classic in suburban Kansas City. Haley opened with an eagle-2 on the first hole and later chalked up four birdies over his final six holes at the Nicklaus Golf Club at LionsGate.
The former Georgia Tech standout leads by one over Sebastian Cappelen, Manuel Villegas, Shane Bertsch and Mark Hubbard.
Seven others are knotted at 5-under 66, including Zack Sucher, Derek Fathauer and local favorite Korbin Kuehn, a resident of the LionsGate.
While Haley moved to the top of the standings, much of the spotlight this week belongs to Australian Jarrod Lyle, who is making his return to competitive golf in the United States after a 29-month hiatus following a second battle with leukemia.
The 32-year old Lyle is hoping to return to the PGA TOUR for the beginning of the 2014-15 season, which begins in October.
The first round proved to be quite a success for the part-time Florida resident. Lyle opened with birdies at Nos. 3 and 4 and added two more to close the front nine with a 4-under 31. “I think the most surprising thing was my focus,” he said. “People talk about a game face and I was ready to go on the first tee. I think that shows that it’s all starting to come back for me.”
He hit eight greens on the back nine but couldn’t find another birdie for his scorecard. He had a couple chances late but missed an eight-footer for birdie on No. 16 and then a six-footer for birdie at the 18th.
“I’m just putting it down to rust. It’s just one of those things when you haven’t played in a long time you start seeing things on the greens that aren’t there or you don’t see things that are there,” he said. “My only goal was to play for four days. That’s pretty much all I came here to do. It was a lot better than I thought it was going to be at the start of the week.”
Lyle wound up with a bogey-free 67, which put him in a tie for ___ with several others including Steve Wheatcroft, winner of last week’s Albertsons Boise Open
FIRST ROUND NOTES:
* Thursday weather: Mostly sunny. Winds SE 10-20 mph. High of 84.
* Eighteen of the top-25 money winners are in the field this week, led by No. 2 Andrew Putnam (69/T34) and No. 5 Jon Curran(74/T125).
* Paul Haley, 26, was born and raised in Dallas and graduated from Georgia Tech University in 2011. His only career win came at the 2012 Chile Classic in Santiago. Haley moved on to the PGA TOUR in 2013 but managed to make only three cuts in 18 starts during his rookie season. This year he has made three cuts in 10 Web.com Tour starts with his best week coming at the Chile Classic (T42).
* Haley hit 12 of 14 fairways, 16 of 18 greens and needed only 26 putts to complete his round.
* Haley’s 64 Thursday matches his career-best on the Web.com Tour. He also posted 64 (8-under) in the second round of the 2012 Chile Classic.
* This is the first time that Haley has held/shared the lead after the first round. His previous 18-hole best came at the 2012 Mexico Open, where he was solo second after the opening round.
* Zack Sucher of Birmingham, Ala. continued his solid play with a 5-under 66 in Thursday’s opener. Sucher is coming off a T4 at last week’s Albertsons Boise Open where he carded an 11-under 60 on the first day. Sucher is No. 20 on the money list.
* Two-time PGA TOUR champion D.J. Trahan carded a 4-under 67 and is hoping that he has begun to the turn the corner on problems that have plagued him for the past couple of seasons.
Trahan, 33, has missed the cut in all four PGA TOUR starts this year and is 2-for-11 on the Web.com Tour with a T27 his best finish.
“I’ve just been working to try and find my game. There have been a lot of players before me who have been in this same situation – you get lost in translation when it comes to golf,” he said. “It’s been a tough couple of years and I’m just trying to stay positive and claw my way back out of it.”
Trahan’s biggest troubles have come on the greens, where he chalked up a trio of three-putts Thursday morning.
“What haven’t I tried? You search and search and search,” he said. “I’ve done it all. Cross-handed. Claw. Belly putter, you name it. Maybe I should close my eyes, who knows? It does feel like things are starting to come around and I’m excited about that. I feel the game is literally testing every nerve that I have. I just have to stay positive and stay patient.”
* Derek Fathauer’s 66 matched his lowest opening round of the season. Fathauer has made 13 cuts in 16 starts this year and has nine top-25 finishes. His best week came at the Nova Scotia Open in Halifax three weeks ago where he was a playoff runner-up to Roger Sloan. Fathauer entered the week No. 10 on the money list.
* Mark Hubbard’s round of 65 puts him in good position for another good week. The San Jose State grad leads the Tour with six top-10 finishes this year. He has made 11 cuts in 15 starts and is No. 16 on the money list. His best week came the United Leasing Championship (T2) last month.
* Korbin Kuehn (KEEN), a 2013 graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, gained a spot in the tournament on a sponsor exemption. Kuehn’s family are members of the Nicklaus Golf Club and have a home that backs up the 7th hole.
The 24-year old got off to a quick start on his home course, posting birdies on five of his first six holes but managed only one birdie the rest of the way and carded a 5-under 66.
“I’m thrilled with it,” he said of his score. “I hit some good shots on my back nine, they just weren’t in spots where I could be that aggressive. They were maybe a little downhill, maybe a little down air and the ball would just creep by. I didn’t leave anything short.
Kuehn is making only his second career start on the Web.com Tour. He was also given a sponsor exemption last year but missed the cut in his professional debut.
“I expected to play well this week,” he said. “It was a little nerve-wracking last year. This year it was the same but I just got off to a better start.”
Kuehn is T6 heading into Friday’s afternoon round.
* Lost among the headlines this week is the return of Australian Michael Sim, the 2009 Web.com Tour Player of the Year. Sim had been gone from competitive play in the United States for nearly two years before teeing it up Thursday morning. His last event was the 2012 Miccosukee Championship. His last PGA TOUR start was the 2011 Children’s Miracle Hospitals Network Classic (W/D).
Sim has been “knocking around home” for a bit and trying to maintain his game while taking a bit of a breather from pressure golf.
The 29-year old posted a 2-over-par 73 and is T1-3.
In 2009, Sim set a Tour record by earning $644,142 in just 14 starts. He won three times, was runner-up twice and finished third once. He won the Stonebrae Classic, the BMW Charity Pro-Am and then collected win No. 3 in this event, posting scores of 65-67-65-67 to finish at 2-under par and win by two shots to earn a battlefield promotion to the PGA TOUR.
* Harold Varner had a pair of eagles Thursday afternoon – one on the par-4, 2nd hole and then another at the par-5, 15th. Varner dunked a 58-degree wedge from 101 yards for the first one and then canned a 6-foot putt for the second after hitting it close with a hybrid from 242 yards. He finished with a 1-under 70 (T55).
* Bogey-free rounds this week:
R1 65 – Sebastian Cappelen, Mark Hubbard
66 – Derek Fathauer, Jose de Jesus Rodriguez, Henrik Norlander
67 – Jarrod Lyle, Aaron Watkins
68 – Jason Gore, Aron Price
* Scoring Averages for the week:
Front (35) Back (36) Total (71)
R1 35.391 35.615 71.006
* NEXT WEEK: The Web.com Tour heads west for the Stonebrae Championship at TPC Stonebrae in Hayward, Calif., July 28-Aug. 3. The tournament was on hiatus in 2013 due to the construction of a new clubhouse. The tournament was held from 2009-2012 with Michael Sim, Kevin Chappell, Daniel Chopra and Alex Aragon collecting the titles. The total purse will be $600,000 with $108,000 going to the winner.
Source: PGA TOUR