RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico (AP) — Ted Purdy’s looking for his old form in an unfamiliar place.
After earning more than $5 million from 2004-2006, a stretch that included his lone PGA Tour win at the Byron Nelson in 2005, Purdy fell out of the top 125 on the money list.
The PGA Tour’s first visit to Puerto Rico could be just what he needs to get back.
Purdy shot a 6-under 66 Thursday at the Puerto Rico Open and was two shots behind first-round leader Bo Van Pelt.
Purdy was tied with tour rookie Kyle Thompson. A group of five players, including Jerry Kelly, were another stroke behind at 67.
“They are treating us like kings,” Purdy said. “And I am really excited about this weekend.”
It’s been a while since Purdy’s felt that way.
After losing his tour card, Purdy flamed out in PGA qualifying. He headed to offseason vowing to improve two areas – his conditioning and his short game.
On top of that, Purdy said he finished a wretched 180th on the PGA Tour last year in efficiency from 30 yards and in.
“These were not effortless changes,” he said. “There was some effort involved.”
His status had him scrambling for playing time. He missed the cut in three of his five previous events and has earned about $24,468.
“I think Tiger’s played the same amount and made over six million, so it’s all relative,” he said.
The highlight of Purdy’s bogey-free round was snaking in a 60-footer for birdie on the par-3 sixth hole, his 15th. Purdy threw his hands in the air in celebration when the ball dropped in.
“I watched Tiger do it on TV a lot, so I know it can be done,” Purdy said.
Van Pelt often takes off during World Golf Championship weeks, since the 32-year-old’s not usually participating in events like the CA Championships at Doral.
With only one full tournament under his belt since mid-February and the kids on break from school, Van Pelt changed his routine and headed South.
Turned out to be a pretty good move.
Van Pelt had birdies on three of his first five holes. His lone bobble of the day came on the par-4 fourth after driving the ball in the water for a bogey.
Things took off with three consecutive birdies to start the back. He made a 10-footer on No. 10, followed with a 6-foot putt on the par-3 11th, then closed with an 8-footer on No. 12.
Van Pelt says his most important shot came to save par on the 14th, a long, 459-yarder. After hitting what he called his “only poor iron shot of the day” left of the green, Van Pelt chipped to tap-in range.
“You make bogey you kind of kill your momentum a little bit,” he said.
Instead, Van Pelt charged to the end. He made birdies on three of his last four holes, his best performance since a 64 at the Travelers Championship nine months ago.
He and his family have enjoyed the island and the people they’ve met.
“So I have been having a great time and I think that kind of helps, too, to relax,” Van Pelt said.