Monday, May 21, 2018

Overton takes Open lead

SAN MARTIN, Calif. — Coming off his worst year, Jeff Overton opened the new PGA Tour season on a good note.

Once he finally made a putt Thursday in the Open, Overton felt as if he couldn't miss. Over the last 11 holes at CordeValle, he made three birdie putts over 25 feet and a 20-foot eagle putt when a gamble paid off on the par-5 ninth.

He finished with a tap-in birdie on 18 for 7-under 64 and a one-shot lead over Brian Harman.

"It really helps if you can get off to a good start," Overton said. "It would be great if we can continue this thing and keep it rolling."

Kyle Stanley had 66. Michael Putnam, who won the Tour money title last season to earn full PGA Tour status, was among those at 67.

The tour season is starting in October instead of January for the first time. The official season ends in September at the Tour Championship.

Thursday was different from previous "season openers," which had been at the Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii.

The temperature was struggling to climb past 50 degrees when Bryce Molder, wearing rain pants to cope with the morning chill, hit the first shot of the year.

Overton, 30, who remains the only American to play in the Ryder Cup without having won on the PGA Tour, had a 2013 season in which just about everything went wrong.

He didn't play in any of the majors for the first time since 2007. He was disqualified from the Colonial when he thought he could use a training aid to practice putting when there was a delay at the turn. He opened with 69 in the John Deere Classic but had to withdraw when he felt shooting pain in his right wrist.

And he was the alternate who didn't get in the PGA Championship, leading to a series of angry posts on Twitter toward the PGA of America for not giving an exemption to a guy who had played in the Ryder Cup three years earlier.

Overton said only that "everything is all good" when asked about his relationship with the PGA of America.

He hopes the same can be said about his game this season, especially after spending the past few months moving to a stronger grip to alleviate recurring pain in his left wrist. It worked beautifully on a sunny day in the foothills south of San Jose, especially the baby cut he hit into 20 inches on the 18th.

The most important shot he hit all day might have been a 6-foot putt for par on the seventh.

Overton hit the ball so well on the first six holes that he had only one birdie attempt longer than 15 feet, but he ended up with pars. But after he watched the ball go into the hole for par on No. 7, he was on his way.

"Next I knew, I made everything," he said. "I saw the ball go in the hole one time, and was just chipping and putting it in — just everything. It was just one of those days that went my way at the end."

LPGA: Ilhee Lee shot 7-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead over Brittany Lang after the opening round of the LPGA Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. Paula Creamer was in a group of four at 66. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome was in a group of eight at 67.