VERONA, N.Y. (AP) — Apparently, time off is a good thing for Jeff Gove.
After playing 23 events this year on the PGA Tour, Gove took three weeks off to recharge his game and returned Thursday with a new resolve, shooting a 7-under 65 to tie Chad Campbell for the first-round lead at the inaugural Turning Stone Resort Championship. [Click here for second round updates.]
“Today, I had a good feel. The course is playing so well,” Gove said. “I’ve done a lot of good work the last few weeks.”
None better than here.
With conditions ideal on a warm, sunny day with a light breeze, Gove, 152nd on the money list, used his stout iron play to quickly take advantage of the wide and soft fairways on the 7,482-yard Atunyote Gold Club course. Second to Tiger Woods on the PGA Tour in greens in regulation (70.13 percent), Gove hit 16 of 18 on the day and made birdie on four of his first five holes, with three of the putts 5 feet or closer.
After faltering with bogey at the par-4 ninth hole, Gove hit a putt that traveled 40 feet, going up and over an undulation in the green before dropping in the hole for birdie at the par-3 11th hole. He followed that by hitting a sand wedge to 5 feet at No. 12 for his final birdie and finished his best round of the year by holing a sand wedge from 100 yards for eagle at the 617-yard, par-5 No. 18.
“I think it’s the first shot I’ve made from the fairway all year,” said Gove, whose best result this season was a tie for sixth at the John Deere Classic, equaling his career high. “I’m pumped. I’m sad to see the day end. I was having fun. I was just definitely enjoying the walk.”
So, too, was Campbell, who registered half of his eight birdies on the four par-5s and needed just 25 putts on the day. A bogey at No. 13 was the lone blemish on his scorecard as he also matched his best round of the year.
“I’ve been working hard,” said Campbell, who tied for 60th last week at the Deutsche Bank Championship. “This year, I hadn’t done anything very well, so it’s nice to get a nice round under my belt and see some of the hard work paying off.
“It’s a tough game. You never can get it figured out, or most of us can’t. I think one person, one person’s got it figured out,” Campbell said smiling in reference to Woods. “Once you think you got it, you know, it goes away from you.”
Steve Flesch, John Senden, Matthew Goggin and Brendon de Jonge were one shot off the lead. Both Goggin and de Jonge bogeyed their final holes.
John Rollins, who won the final B.C. Open here just over a year ago with a closing 64, shot 67 and was tied for seventh with John Mallinger, Robert Allenby, Matt Hendrix, and Tag Ridings.
Third-year pro David Branshaw, a native of nearby Oswego, was at 4-under 68, tied with Justin Leonard, Robert Gamez, Steven Lowery, Mark Hensby, Joey Sindelar, and five others.
John Daly, coughing and apparently ailing, withdrew after seven holes, complaining he was ill with the flu. Daly had opened with three straight pars, then followed with bogeys on three of the next four holes. At No. 7, he sat on his bag for several minutes with his head down waiting to play, then three-putted and walked off the course.
Flesch departed smiling. He started with six birdies on his first eight holes before his tee shot at No. 9 landed in a bunker. His second shot never made it out of the sand, stopping in an unplayable lie.
“I didn’t know what I was going to make,” Flesch said. “I saw that ball sitting on the lip, and I’m like, ‘Dear, God, what do I do?’ I called for an official, an excavator, an architect, I didn’t know what I was doing.”
Flesch finally blasted out to the front edge of the green and two-putted from 34 feet for double bogey. He then made a pair of birdies on the back nine before closing with six straight pars.
“I played OK coming in, kind of played a messy back nine but didn’t drop any more shots,” said Flesch, who hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation. “I salvaged a really good round out of what could have been a great round.”
Turning Stone, with a purse of $6 million, kicks off a new seven-tournament run called the PGA Fall Series that will decide the final money leaders list. The top 125 players retain fully exempt status to play on Tour in 2008, and the Fall Series determines Nos. 31 through 125. (The top 30 were already decided through the FedEx Cup playoffs.)
Among those on the bubble, Steve Allan, who began the day at No. 125 in earnings, carded six bogeys and finished at 4-over 76. Bill Haas, right behind Allan, had a 3-under 69, while Frank Lickliter II (No. 130) finished with a 70 and Alex Cejka (No. 128) a 71. All are within $52,000 of each other.
Divots: Daly was joined on the withdrawal list by Brent Geiberger, who had six bogeys and a double bogey. He made birdie at the par-3 16th hole, then withdrew because of vertigo. Rich Beem also withdrew because of illness, and Paul Stankowski did not start because of a neck injury. … Aussie Nick Flanagan, playing in his first PGA event, shot 72.