LOS CABOS, Mexico – Cameron Percy is 49 and already sent in his application for PGA Tour Champions Q-School in December. But the Aussie, who is still seeking his first PGA Tour win, may want to put the senior circuit on hold for a bit after the way he played on Thursday in the first round of the World Wide Technology Championship.
Percy carded eight birdies and an eagle to shoot 10-under 62 at El Cardonal at Diamante and match his career low in 632 career rounds spanning the last 20 years. When play was suspended due to darkness with 10 players still on the course, Percy held a two-stroke lead over four other golfers.
“I’m 152 I think on the FedEx Cup, so finishing Top 150 at my age would be fantastic,” he said. “I want to at least do that, but if I can keep the ball rolling like I did today, I should be able to finish a lot higher than that, and then lead into Q-School with the Champions Tour. Yeah, I’m looking forward to that.”
Percy birdied three of his first five holes and then spun back a pitch shot from 70 yards for eagle at the par-5 sixth.
“For about an hour and a half it didn’t matter where I hit it, it went in,” Percy said.
He had it to 9-under through 13 but made a three-putt par at 14.
“I couldn’t make ‘em all,” said Percy, who matched the score he shot in Las Vegas in 2010.
He drained a 15-foot birdie at the last to cap off an impressive showing and already was licking his chops to tee off again in less than 12 hours as the first off at 6:25 a.m. local time on Friday.
“I’m going to get the good greens and I need to take advantage of it,” he said.
Percy’s happy day leads off our things to know from the opening round:
Tiger Woods designed the fairways to be generous at El Cardonal at Diamante but even Tiger probably didn’t imagine 32 players in a field of 132 hitting all 14 fairways.
These guys are good but when was the last time that 32 players did that at a PGA Tour event? (Paging Justin Ray for the answer.) Well, this we do know: the field hit 1,841 tee shots on par 4s and par 5s. Of those drives, 1,658 landed in the short grass, for a remarkable 90.06 fairways-hit percentage.
The wide fairways presumably were for the members and guests and Tiger likely didn’t envision a PGA Tour event coming here, but it’s not exactly target practice this week. As Zac Blair put it, “You can go all week without missing a fairway if you hit it good … I missed one with an iron and I was so mad.”
El Cardonal shares at least one thing with Augusta National: it’s a second-shot course.
“You hit the fairway and you’re going to have a chance to get it close to the pins out here on most holes,” said Nate Lashley.
Four golfers shot 64 and share second. One of them, Nate Lashley, left the course with three Dos Equis beers from the locker room after finishing his round in style with a 4-iron tight at 18.
“Can’t ask for more to finish with an eagle on the last hole. Go home, eat some food and come back early tomorrow,” said Lashley, who notched his one Tour win in 2019.
Michael Kim, who had butterflies on his golf shirt and birdies on his scorecard, was asked if he preferred tequila or cerveza.
“No alcohol during a tournament week but definitely tequila if not playing,” he said. And how many margaritas would he consume if he were to win for the first time since 2018?
“Quite a few,” he said with a smile.
Camilo Villegas is a four-time Tour winner but hasn’t hoisted a trophy since 2014. He entered the week No. 234 in the FedEx Cup with just three made cuts in 10 starts, but it hasn’t gotten him down. “I’m a big process guy,” he said. “I enjoy the process and I’ve made a lot of progress this year with my new coach.”
Tano Goya of Spain opened with 64 for the second time this season. The other? The Vidanta Mexico Open. Asked if the Tour needs more tournaments south of the border, he smiled and said, “For sure, yeah. I think really Mexico has my heart in a lot of ways. I’m happy to play here, with the Latin American crowds, the food is great and people are so happy and it brings joy in the tournament, so I love it.”
Matti Schmid has only one top-10 on the PGA Tour this season – in January at the American Express – but he’s finding his game just in the nick of time.
The 25-year-old German native fired a 7-under 65 in the opening round of the World Wide Technology Championship, his second-lowest start to a tournament in 27 starts. (He opened in 64 at the AmEx.)
“Ball-striking was really good today. On the front nine I holed some nice putts that really got the round going in a good direction,” he said. “Yeah, I was happy with today.”
Schmid entered the week No. 148 in the FedEx Cup standings but shot a season-low final-round 63 in Vegas in his last Tour start to finish T-26 and then finished runner-up in the DP World Tour’s Andalucia Masters.
“So I really kept momentum,” he said. “This is a big stretch for me these next two weeks, but I feel probably the best ever, so hopefully can keep it going that way.”
Billy Davis is the twin brother of 2022 Augusta National Women’s Amateur winner Anna Davis, but he’s making a name for himself yet again in his debut on the PGA Tour.
Billy was 2 under through 17 holes when play was suspended in the first round. Davis had it to 4 under through 13 but made three bogeys and a birdie before the horn blew due to darkness.
Davis, 17, made it into the field by winning a playoff for the final spot in a Monday qualifier. His dad suggested he play in the pre-qualifier, which was held not far from his house.
“I was kind of like, I don’t know about this and my dad told me to do it. All right, whatever,” he explained.
He made it through and then shot 5-under 66 and chipped in for birdie on the first playoff hole to edge Korn Ferry Tour member RJ Manke to secure his spot in the field.
“I was just supposed to make it that day, that’s just how it was,” he said.