HAYWARD, Calif. (AP) — After struggling on the greens and finishing 20 strokes out of the lead in his Nationwide Tour debut, Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice had specific plans for his putter.
“I’m going to take it home, melt it down and I’m going to get rid of it,” Rice said Thursday after shooting a 12-over 83 in the Fresh Express Classic. “It really let me down today. I could not get the speed of the greens. I don’t think I struck a really solid putt today at all.”
The 47-year-old Rice, also the tournament host, birdied the par-5 seventh and also had eight pars but his round was tempered by five bogeys and four double bogeys at TPC Stonebrae.
Playing on a sponsor exemption, the former 49ers star was tied for 153rd with Brendon Todd in the 155-man field, two strokes ahead of last-place Brian Bateman.
Dicky Pride shot an 8-under 63 to take a one-stroke lead over David Hearn, Aron Price, Colt Knost, Jamie Lovemark and Miguel Angel Carballo.
Playing in a threesome with Ryan Thornberry and Michael Paul, Rice seemed relaxed as he chatted with a small gallery of fans while making his way around the course.
At one point he jogged through the crowd down a cart path and joked, “I’ve still got it,” as he weaved past spectators.
But the NFL’s career receiving leader and owner of three Super Bowl rings wasn’t very comfortable, particularly early in the round.
He hooked his first tee shot into thick rough alongside a cart path on the 396-yard, par-4 10th. The ball landed in a gopher hole, so Rice was given relief. He punched his second shot back into the fairway and left his approach more than 30 feet shy of the hole before three-putting for a double bogey.
Rice parred the next two holes before making bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14.
That’s when things got rough.
Rice’s second shot on the 606-yard, par-5 15th sailed over the back of the green and settled in deep rough above a vertical trap. When Rice tried a soft wedge shot to the green, his club sliced through the grass and under the ball, which popped straight up and landed nearly in its original spot.
That led to the first of two double bogeys that dropped Rice to 8 over.
“When you can’t get momentum then you start putting pressure on yourself to make something happen,” Rice said. “I just had some holes where I didn’t play as well.”
Rice had his most trouble on or near the green, something he anticipated might be an obstacle.
He three-putted twice and missed two other short par putts on the front nine.
“My putter really didn’t do anything for me today,” Rice said. “Some of those pars you have to be able to save and I was not able to do that.”
After he missed a short par putt on No. 17, Rice settled down with three consecutive pars before a bogey on the 625-yard, par-5 third left him 10 over.
Rice had another bogey on No. 5, birdied the par-5 seventh after narrowly missing his eagle putt, and had a par on No. 8 before closing with a three-put for another double bogey on No. 9.
“I wanted to shoot my jersey number,” said Rice, who wore No. 80 during his time in the NFL. “I was really happy that I hung in there and fought because I could have been around 20 or 30 (over). I hung in there and I fought in there and I had a good time no matter what.”
Rice, who also owns the NFL’s record for career touchdowns, played 20 NFL seasons for San Francisco, Oakland and Seattle. He made 1,549 catches for 22,895 yards, had 14 1,000-yard seasons and scored 208 touchdowns.