PGA Tour

Saunders sets Barbasol pace

2015-07-17 07:07
(File, Shutterstock)

Auburn - Sam Saunders, who is the grandson of two-time British Open winner Arnold Palmer, fired a career-low, seven-under 64 to take the lead after the opening round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship Thursday.

The 27-year-old Saunders is leading the inaugural Barbasol Championship while the world's best golfers are playing this week across the Atlantic in the British Open, which his grandfather won in 1961 and 1962.

Saunders, who is aiming for his first USPGA Tour win in 45 career starts, went bogey free to lead fellow American Jason Gore by one stroke on the Grand National's Lake Course.

It was 54 years ago this week that Palmer captured his first Open Championship.

"It is just the first round, but it's always nice to get off to a good start," Saunders said.

"You have to hit the ball well here and I did that today. I drove it well and I hit a lot of good iron shots.

"You don't have to putt great here to shoot a good, solid score, but to shoot seven under, I had a lot of putts go in for me today. I haven't seen that happen in a long time."

His best finish is a second-place tie this year in the Puerto Rico Open.

Saunders closed his round on Thursday by rolling in a birdie putt on his final hole, the par-four ninth.

Gore finished strong as he made birdie on four of his final five holes.

"The golf course is just there for the taking," said Gore, whose lone win on the US Tour was at the 84 Lumber Classic in 2005.

"It's a great golf course. Not a breath of wind, greens were holding, you just kind of had to go out and take advantage of it."

One shot back of Gore in a group that shot 66 was amateur Maverick McNealy, who played alongside Saunders. McNealy carded an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys.

"I love to play and I love to compete," McNealy said. "On a golf course like this that's in perfect condition and to do all that, that's what every kid dreams of."

Also at 66 was Martin Flores, Carlos Sainz, Mexico's Carlos Ortiz and local favourite Will Wilcox, who attended university in Alabama and lived in Auburn for a time.

Erik Compton, Ricky Barnes, South Korea's Kim Whee, Michael Thompson and Boo Weekley are tied for eighth following matching four-under 67s.

Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, the highest-ranked player in the tournament at number 93, opened with a 68.

Leading scores after Thursday's first round of the US PGA Barbasol Championship (USA unless noted, par-71, a-denotes amateur):

64 - Sam Saunders

65 - Jason Gore

66 - Martin Flores, Carlos Ortiz (MEX), Carlos Sainz, Will Wilcox, a-Maverick McNealy

67 - Boo Weekley, Erik Compton, Ricky Barnes, Michael Thompson, Kim Whee (KOR)

68 - J.J. Henry, Brandt Jobe, Jonathan Byrd, Kent Jones, Ken Duke, Spencer Levin, Kyle Reifers, Ryo Ishikawa (JPN), Emiliano Grillo (ARG), Andrew Loupe, Tom Hoge, a-Robby Shelton

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