Round 1 – Players Cup
Max Rottluff, Jonathan Garrick and Sam Fidone shot a 7-under 64at a calm Niakwa Country Club to share the first-round lead at the Players Cup, the fifth event of the 2016 Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada season.
Following his first professional victory at the SIGA Dakota Dunes Open two weeks ago, Germany’s Max Rottluff continued his strong form in Winnipeg by opening with birdies on five of his first six holes in benign conditions on the par-71 layout at Niakwa Country Club. After a week off to let his maiden victory in Saskatoon sink in, the Arizona State product is in prime position to capture a second victory in as many starts.
“There are quite a few birdie holes out there, but you don’t go out and expect to shoot 7-under,” said Rottluff, who is currently No. 3 on the Order of Merit. “You can only lose a tournament on the first day, you can never win it. It’s still a long way to go and I saw a few really low scores out there, so I’ve got three more days to go out and shoot some low scores.”
Garrick, the recent UCLA grad, began his round on the back nine and opened with six consecutive birdies and added a seventh on the par-4 17th hole. After a dropped shot at the 18th, the 22-year-old Los Angeles resident rebounded with a birdie on the par-4 fourth hole to finish with a 64, his career low in eight previous rounds on the Mackenzie Tour.
“I made a few long putts and hit a couple of wedges close, and the next thing I knew it was six birdies in a row, which I had never done before,” Garrick said of his fast start. “This is a ball striker’s course where you have to hit a lot of drivers, which is my strength, so it has been a good advantage so far and I’m looking forward to the next few days.”
Making his Mackenzie Tour debut, Sam Fidone survived two water balls with a strong putting performance that yielded eight birdies to join the group at 7-under. The 23-year-old Texan has spent the year on PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, where he is currently No. 5 on ‘Los Cinco’ after a win at the Honduras Open and three other top-15 finishes.
“When I got here I quickly understood there were going to be a lot of putts made out here,” Fidone said. “The greens are relatively flat and they roll absolutely perfect, but at the end of the day this is a tee-ball course and if you are hitting fairways you are going to be able to figure your way out around this course and shoot a number.”
Three players are tied for fourth at 6-under par: Carter Jenkins, Adam Webb and Andrew Ledger. Jenkins, who finished runner-up at the SIGA Dakota Dunes Open, was nearly a co-leader before a bogey at the 18th hole left him one stroke back. Webb, meanwhile, turned in a bogey-free round, which included a stretch of three birdies in a row from Nos. 2-4. Ledger followed suit with a bogey-free round of his own and birdied the par-3 ninth hole, his final hole of the day.
First Round Leaderboard (Bold denotes Canadian):
Max Rottluff – 64 (-7)
Jonathan Garrick – 64 (-7)
Jonathan Garrick – 64 (-7)
Sam Fidone – 64 (-7)
Andrew Ledger – 65 (-6)
Andrew Ledger – 65 (-6)
Adam Webb – 65 (-6)
Carter Jenkins – 65 (-6)
Rottluff is looking to become the second multiple-winner on the season and join Order of Merit leader Dan McCarthy, who won both the Freedom 55 Financial Open and the GolfBC Championship. Rottluff missed the cut in his first two events of the season before winning the title in Saskatoon.
At No. 3 on the Order of Merit, Rottluff can earn a spot in the RBC Canadian Open if he maintains his position through next week’s Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel.
Garrick is making his fourth career start on the Mackenzie Tour, already with a top-5 finish to his credit after four consecutive rounds in the 60s propelled him to a tie for fifth at the GolfBC Championship in just his second professional start.
With this being the last week to qualify for next month’s Olympic Games in Rio, Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent is on the short list of alternates to join the field.
Vincent began his second Players Cup appearance with a 1-under 71and is T62 after the first round. Having competed in all four Mackenzie Tour events on the season, Vincent has finished in the top 10 three times, including a T6 performance at the SIGA Dakota Dunes Open – the most recent event on the Mackenzie Tour. He currently occupies the No. 6 position on the Order of Merit.
Order of Merit leader Dan McCarthy opened with a 5-under 66, his 17th consecutive under-par round to open the 2016 season. With the round, McCarthy improves his Tour-leading scoring average to 67.18.
McCarthy is mathematically guaranteed to be in the top three on the Order of Merit through the Staal Foundation Open presented by Tbaytel and will earn a spot in the RBC Canadian Open – his first appearance in a PGA TOUR event.
“It’s obviously awesome, but I have to approach it just like every other tournament. That’s what we do and that’s the goal, so I’m not going to treat it different than any other tournament. I know my tendencies and I know what happens when I get a little off or when I get out of sync. I have a couple of drills that I do on a regular basis to get myself back in sync and get things back where I want them, so that’s all I’m going to do.” – Dan McCarthy on preparing for his first start on the PGA TOUR at the RBC Canadian Open.
“Those first three weeks were a bit of a whirlwind so getting the good finish in Saskatoon really helped me settle down out here and it’s a little bit different playing out here now than it was about a month ago so it’s nice.” – Carter Jenkins on his comfort level out on Tour.
“I went into Saskatoon knowing I needed a good tournament to keep momentum going for this year, and that made me feel like I can play out here. I knew I could do it, I just have to keep playing well.” – Andrew Ledger, on coming off his first made cut on the Mackenzie Tour at the SIGA Dakota Dunes Open two weeks ago.