LA QUINTA, Calif. — Shane Bertsch hopped out of his recreational vehicle and excelled on a course he hadn't seen in more than 10 years, opening with 10-under 62 Wednesday at the Hope Classic for a two-stroke lead over Alex Prugh and Jeff Quinney.
Bertsch was the last player to register for the five-day, four-course tournament after a difficult travel path from Hawaii to the Palm Springs area, yet he posted the best round of his PGA Tour career.
Bertsch had 10 birdies without a bogey even while helping line up putts for his pro-am playing partners under intermittent rain and wind.
"I was just comfortable," Bertsch said. "I always like these formats, because I help the guys out, and it keeps me maybe not so focused on myself until it's time to hit, and then I just go and hit."
J.P. Hayes, George McNeill, Joe Ogilvie and Garrett Willis were three back. Heath Slocum was in a large group at 6 under.
Heavier rain is expected today, meaning Bertsch's big opening round could loom even larger.
Bertsch was stuck in Hawaii for a day after the Sony Open, where he finished 25th, with his wife and daughters when their red-eye flight was canceled. They eventually flew Monday night from Hawaii to Phoenix, where the Denver native picked up his RV and drove across the desert to blustery Palm Springs, arriving late Tuesday afternoon.
Quinney, Bertsch and Prugh, 25, all played the idiosyncratic Nicklaus Private course, which is considered among the easiest on tour — but Bertsch hadn't visited it since qualifying school in the 1990s. Because of his travel woes, he didn't even get a refresher look before teeing it up.
"It was like a new adventure over every hill," Bertsch said. "I didn't know really what to expect. It was one of those courses I just didn't remember a lot about."