IRVING, Texas (AP) — Ryan Moore got tired of trying to play through the pain: the sore shoulder, the surgically repaired left hand that was still bothering him two years later. So he took some extra time off this spring.
Now the first player since Tiger Woods to skip Q-school and go straight from college to the PGA Tour is a first-round leader for the first time.
Moore, playing for only the third time in 10 weeks, shot a 3-under 67 Thursday to share the lead with Eric Axley and Mathew Goggin at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship.
“I just had a couple of things that were irritating me and I decided to take some time early in the season and get them out of the way,” Moore said. “To come out today, it feels like I at least made the right decision to deal with those things.”
Only 24 of the 156 players in the field broke par in the first round played on the redesigned TPC Four Seasons course. But that had more to do with the weather than changes made to every hole in a major renovation since last year’s tournament.
There were soft fairways after an inch of rain overnight, plus windy conditions with gusts of more than 30 mph.
“It’s pretty brutal,” Goggin said.
“It was tough out there,” Axley said. “When you’re playing well, it doesn’t feel as hard as it really is sometimes. But, no, it was really tough.”
The 67s made that trio the highest-scoring first-round leaders at the Nelson since 1984. The scoring average of 72.4 was the highest since 2000.
Adam Scott, the only one of the world’s top 10 players at the Nelson, was in a group of eight players a stroke back at 2-under 68. That quintet also included Jesper Parnevik, Kevin Sutherland, Briny Baird, Shaun Micheel, Ian Poulter, Dustin Johnson and Parker McLachlin.
Masters champion Trevor Immelman, playing for the first time since winning the green jacket, finished with a 78, better than only three other players.
Moore began his season with a fifth-place finish at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, then played the next four weeks – missing two cuts and finishing 48th or worst in the others. He was off a couple of weeks before missing another cut, then took a five-week break before returning last week at Hilton Head, where he missed the cut again.
But at the Nelson, Moore had seven birdies and four bogeys. That included a six-hole stretch on the back nine when he had either birdie or bogey on each.
“It was just one of those days that you knew it was going to be a battle the whole time you were out there,” Moore said. “I’ll take a 67 on any course any day. This is definitely one of my better rounds of the year.”
As enjoyable as the score was how Moore felt physically, playing without pain.
Moore injured his hand in 2005, his first year on the PGA Tour out of UNLV. He had surgery the following year, then trying to compensate for the pain in his hand, he put extra stress on his shoulder. Moore didn’t need a doctor to tell him to rest his body this spring.
“No matter what score I’m shooting right now,” Moore said, “I’m enjoying it a heck of a lot more because it’s not painful being out there.”
Axley, who overcame an early bogey with consecutive birdies from Nos. 4-7, was in the lead alone after a birdie at the par-5 16th. But he missed the 18th fairway and his approach shot at the 429-yard hole wound up in a greenside bunker, the only time he was in one of the redone bunkers all day, and he finished with a bogey.
Goggin got to 3 under with three consecutive birdies on his back nine. He sank putts of 15-20 feet on Nos. 5 and 6 before hitting his second shot at the 542-yard seventh hole to the fringe and chipping to 2 feet.
Immelman, the Nelson runner-up two years ago, was already 6 over through eight holes. He needed 34 putts and finished with a bogey at the 427-yard ninth, soon after his only birdies at Nos. 6 and 7. The South African admitted this week that the victory at Augusta “still hasn’t quite sunk in yet” after more than a week to celebrate and reflect.
“I just think I’ve just run out of gas,” Immelman said. “I’m obviously real tired. I’m been trying to get as much sleep as I can, as well as obviously running around.”
Without an incredible turnaround in the second round, Immelman will have time to sleep this weekend because he won’t be playing golf. He’d also become the first Masters winner since Jose Maria Olazabal in 1994 to miss the cut in his next tournament.
Notes: J.J. Henry (72) of Fort Worth and Harrison Frazar (73) of Dallas, the two player consultants during the TPC Four Seasons renovation, shot over par. … It is the first time since 1993 that the Nelson has been played on only one course. … Defending champion Scott Verplank shot a 72. Verplank is playing in his 22nd Nelson, the most among active players. … There were two holes in one, Dean Wilson at the 174-yard 5th hole, and Kevin Streelman at the 184-yard 17th.