Brandt Jobe shot a 7-under 65 to take the lead after the first round of the Ally Challenge at Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
Grand Blanc — As it turns out, a little local knowledge can be good to have on the golf course.
That was certainly the case Friday in the first round of the inaugural Ally Challenge at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club. At a course where most in the field had played in the past when it hosted the Buick Open on the PGA Tour, the birdies were almost as plentiful in the inaugural Champions Tour event as they used to be on a layout that was always susceptible to giving up low scores.
Seventy of the 78 players in the field played in the Buick Open, including 10 who were champions. On Friday, it was Brandt Jobe that did the best at dusting off the memory and relying on his knowledge of the 7,104-yard layout.
Jobe fired a 7-under 65 to hold a one-shot lead over Jeff Maggert, Esteban Toledo and three-time Buick Open champion Vijay Singh, who all shot 6-under 66.
“The course is good, it's in great shape. It's like we remember,” Jobe said. “It's tight and running and it's getting good. If it gets a little firm, it's going to get even more difficult.
“It's been a while. There's a few trees missing, a few things are different. But yeah, I mean, it's kind of a friendly place. We all played here a bunch, so it's a great place. They support golf here unbelievably well and really nice for us to be here.”
Two shots back at 5-under was a group of players that included Tom Lehman, Lee Janzen, Paul Broadhurst, David Toms and David McKenzie.
“It felt like the same as it did 25 years ago,” Maggert said. “I think if you put me out here in the fairway, I wouldn't know the difference in time. The course is the same as it was. It's a great course. The greens have always been some of the best greens we ever putted and that's why you see a lot of low scores here.”
The low scores were reminiscent of so many Buick Opens in the past where birdies in bunches were required. Jobe had six, including three straight to open this round on the back side. He added an eagle at No. 16 to help offset one bogey.
Jeff Maggert had two eagles while shooting a 6-under 66 in the first round of the Ally Challenge at Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
It was a heck of a start for Jobe, the 53-year old who earned his first Champions Tour victory this season but hadn’t played since the Senior British Open in late July.
“I've had a lot of weeks off,” Jobe said. “You always expect to come back a little rusty. Today was good, ball-striking was really good, made a few putts, but hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens and kind of made it easy on myself.”
It seemed nearly as easy for much of the field as more than half finished the first round in red numbers.
After an eagle on No. 16 — his second of the day — Maggert found himself tied for the lead. However, a bogey on No. 17 followed by a birdie putt left short on the 18th left him a shot behind Jobe.
“Some good things happened, some bad things happened, but overall I played pretty steady,” Maggert said. “I made a few bad swings today, so hopefully I can tighten that up a little on the weekend. But certainly two eagles and five birdies certainly counteracted some of the bad stuff.
“I knew there was going to be some low scores out here. I feel like I need to be on pace to shoot close to 20-under par, so I've got to come out tomorrow and keep making the birdies and hopefully sneak another eagle in or two.”
No player in the field likely has the local knowledge of Singh, a three-time winner of the Buick Open (1997, 2004, 2005). He hit just 13 of 18 greens in regulation but needed just 25 putts to finish at 66, his best score in the first round since the 2017 Senior PGA Championship.
“Drove the ball pretty good, I don't think I missed too many fairways,” Singh said. “If you drive the ball over here good, you're going to give yourself a lot of birdie opportunities. I putted well, too. I made some pretty nice birdie putts. If you drive it well and putt well, you're going to shoot a good number.”
The Ally Challenge
When: Through Sunday
Where: Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club, Grand Blanc
Purse: $2 million (winner: $300,000)
TV: Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m. each day