Thursday’s golf: Varner III, Hoge, Sloan share Wyndham lead tied at 62
Greensboro, N.C. — Harold Varner III, Tom Hoge and Roger Sloan each shot 8-under 62 on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Wyndham Championship, the PGA Tour's final regular-season event before the FedEx Cup playoffs.
Varner started the go-low parade at at Sedgefield Country Club with an eight-birdie, no-bogey round that matched his career best on the PGA Tour.
Hoge and Sloan, playing together, followed suit later in the round, Hoge also matched his career low on tour, while Sloan's score set his personal best.
There were 33 players on the course who had not finished when the round was suspended due to bad weather.
Hoge looked like he might have a shot at 59 after he went eagle-birdie on the 15th and 16th holes to reach 9 under.
But Hoge, who first played on the PGA Tour in 2015 and has never won, missed a 10-footer for birdie on the 17th before his only bogey on No. 18 to drop into the tie.
Sloan had birdies on the 16th and 17th holes and had a chance at 9-under to take the lead alone, but came up short on a 15-foot birdie try on the final hole. The strong start was especially crucial for the 33-year-old Canadian, who came into the tour's last regular-season event at 178 in FedEx Cup points — well out of the 125 cut off to make next week's first postseason event, the Northern Trust in Boston.
Sloan is projected to rise into the top 50 should he maintain his position.
"Honestly, I don't have to do anything," he said. "I'm very blessed that I have status on the PGA Tour next season. That's important. I'm going to get starts, I think that frees you up."
All three leaders are seeking their first tour wins.
The trio were two shots in front of Harris English (64). A large group was at 5-under led by former Masters champion Patrick Reed.
Past U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson led another pack at 4-under 66.
Paul Casey, who tied for second last week at the PGA Championship, was at 67.
Some other PGA Championship contenders last week were not as fortunate.
Both Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose, each in the mix in the final round of the year's first major, could not keep that going in this one.
Koepka was 10 shots behind after a 72. Justin Rose finished a stroke worse at 73.
Koepka said he was flat after playing several weeks in a row. "A bit tired, to be honest with you, so definitely came out flat," he said. "But I've got to play, I've got no other option."
Koepka said even moving up a spot or two in FedEx Cup standings is helpful to advance, so that's why he passed up a week off to compete.
He also said he apologized for his comments after Saturday's third round last week that he didn't know "a lot of the other guys" on the leaderboard.
"I get it, I get how it came across and I apologize for that," Koepka said.
Senior Players Championship
Steve Stricker birdied the final hole for a 2-under 68 and a share of the lead Thursday in the PGA Tour Champions’ first major of the season.
“Didn’t hit it all that good, though. I scraped it around, got it up-and-down a lot,” Stricker said. “But a good score certainly.”
Jerry Kelly, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Wes Short Jr. and Rod Pampling joined Stricker atop the leaderboard on Firestone Country Club’s South Course, the longtime site of a PGA Tour event and later a World Golf Championship tournament.
Stricker had three birdies and a bogey.
“You’re rewarded when you hit good shots and you’re not when you hit bad ones,” the U.S. Ryder Cup captain said. “So it’s a fair course right in front of you.”
Paul Broadhurst was the only other player to break par, shooting 69.
Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer were at even-par 70 with Duffy Waldorf, Robert Karlsson and Kenny Perry.
Ernie Els topped the group at 71. Charles Schwab Cup leader Brett Quigley and Vijay Singh shot 73, and defending champion Retief Goosen opened with a 75.
Stewart Hagestad advanced to the quarterfinals, winning two matches Thursday at windy Bandon Dunes.
Hagestad, the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion from Newport Beach, California, beat Spencer Tibbits 3 and 1 in the morning and topped Harrison Ott 4 and 3 in the afternoon. Hagestad set up a quarterfinal match with Tyler Strafaci, a 1-up winner over Segundo Oliva Pinto in the round of 32.
For the first time since 2004, all eight quarterfinalists are American.
The 29-year-old Hagestad is trying to move from 15th into the top seven in the World Amateur Golf Ranking to gain a U.S. Open exemption. He’s also pushing to make a third consecutive U.S. Walker Cup team.