GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Bob Heintz has always wanted some fans to follow him around the course for a change. For one day anyway, he got that kind of attention, even if it took some ribbing — and a remarkable start to the Wyndham Championship.
Heintz and rookie Martin Laird matched the course record Thursday with 7-under 63s at Sedgefield Country Club to share the lead after the first round of the PGA Tour’s last event before the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
They joined three other players who previously shot 63s at the Donald Ross-designed course — nobody had done it since Gary Player in 1970, although the pros haven’t played Sedgefield since 1976 — and surpassed the venue’s opening-round record by one stroke.
Garrett Willis birdied his final five holes to join Scott Sterling, Tim Clark and Carl Pettersson one stroke back at 64. Steve Marino, Bob Sowards, Ken Duke and Scott McCarron were two strokes behind at 65.
Early during Heintz’s round, he figured out that the gallery of roughly 50 people was far more interested in another member of his threesome, local amateur Drew Weaver.
“I said, ‘I imagine y’all are here to watch Drew, right?”‘ Heintz said. “They kind of laughed and felt bad that they weren’t there to watch me. I relayed to them that one of my career goals was to get where I’m good enough where someone might actually go to a golf course, pick up a pairing sheet and say, ‘I’ll follow Bob Heintz’s group today.’
“That’s kind of a vague career goal, but they started to tease me about that as the day went on — ‘I guess I’ll follow you now.’ I’d rather have attention than, you know, have nobody know who I was.”
Heintz started his round on the back nine and birdied five of his first eight holes. He could have pushed his score even lower on his final hole, the par-4 ninth, but he pushed his 15-foot birdie putt to the right and tapped in for par.
Laird’s round was bogey-free with five birdies — including one on the course’s toughest hole, the par-4 18th. He added an eagle on the par-4 13th, using a wedge out of the left rough and holing out from about 115 yards away.
“That was one of the ones I got lucky,” Laird said.
The co-leaders could use a weekend’s worth of that good fortune if they want to extend their seasons, qualify for the playoffs and maybe even keep their tour cards.
Laird ranks 162nd on the money list and 164th on the points list. Heintz is one spot ahead of Laird in earnings but trails him by three spots in the FedEx Cup chase in which the top 144 players advance to the postseason.
“If I was to point to something and say, ‘This could be stressful for me right now,’ it would not be whether I get into the FedEx Cup,” Heintz said. “It would be, you know, am I going to be able to finish this year in the top 125?
“Am I going to be able to finish in the top 150? For a player of my current status, those are the real concerns. I would love to take some of that FedEx Cup money, and that would mean good things for me, but I don’t come to this week going, ‘Man, I’ve got to get in the FedEx Cup.”‘
Heintz and Laird bested the course’s previous opening-round mark of 64 shared by four players, most recently Lee Elder and Tom Weiskopf in 1973.
Four years after that, the tournament moved 15 miles across town to Forest Oaks Country Club, and it was held there from 1977-2007 before organizers this year brought the event back to Sedgefield.
Brandt Snedeker, whose first career PGA Tour victory came at Forest Oaks last year, finished his opening round three strokes off the lead.
“This golf course actually sets up better for me than Forest Oaks did,” Snedeker said. “This is more of a placement-off-the-tee kind of golf course and hitting the greens and making some putts. … Forest Oaks was more of a shootout, see how many birdies you can make. If you hit it long, you had an advantage. Over here, you don’t. You’ve got to place it around the golf course, which is kind of more suited to my game.”