PGA TOUR Release, 16 August 2019: Viktor Hovland and Cameron Percy fired matching 7-under 64s to claim the first-round lead at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. Doug Ghim sits one stroke behind after posting a 6-under 65, while Matthew NeSmith trails by two after an opening-round 66.
Anirban Lahiri continued his good run with a fighting 67 to end the day in T5. Shubhankar Sharma conceded a double bogey on the first hole and battled his way to a 75 that left him outside the top 100.
The 32-year-old PGA TOUR golfer was down by two strokes when he began his round with bogeys at the 11th & 14th holes. But the resilient Indian fought back with six birdies, including back to back birdies to finish the round. He had five birdies in a brilliant second nine, after starting the day at the 10th tee.
Shubhankar made an eagle at the 12th and a birdie at the 18th hole but five bogeys and the double early on proved an insurmountable deficit as he wrapped his card up at four-over for the round.
Hovland did not show any nerves in his Korn Ferry Tour debut. The 21-year-old recorded birdies on three of his first seven holes and made the turn at 3-under for the round.
Hovland caught fire with an eagle at the par-5 12th, moving him to 5-under. He carded his only bogey of the day at the par-4 14th but rebounded with birdies on his final three holes to post an opening-round 7-under 64.
“This course could be pretty hard, and a lot of the pins were kind of tucked in,” Hovland said. “I finally got some good looks and finally made a birdie on No. 4 and a nice putt on No. 5 to kind of get kick?started. I made three really nice putts to finish and hopefully that will keep me going for the rest of the week.”
Hovland enters the Korn Ferry Tour Finals after a summer to remember. The highly touted Oklahoma State University alum recorded five top-16 finishes in six PGA TOUR starts between June and early August including a T12 at the U.S. Open as an amateur. He earned his best result as a professional with a solo-fourth at the Wyndham Championship two weeks ago.
Despite his impressive stretch, Hovland fell 67 FedExCup points short of earning his PGA TOUR card. He now looks to capture a spot in The Finals 25 and secure his place on TOUR for the 2019-20 season.
“I’ve played well,” Hovland said of his summer. “I think most of all the fact that I’ve been so consistent every week. I haven’t had one fourth and then two missed cuts and then one 25th or 18th. The fact that I’ve made all the cuts that I’ve been playing in, that gives me even more confidence. I feel like in the [Korn Ferry Tour] Finals, if you just play consistently good golf, that should get the job done.”
Tied with Hovland atop the leaderboard is Cameron Percy. The veteran began his round with three consecutive pars but tallied birdies on four of his next six holes. Percy vaulted up the leaderboard after holing his approach shot from 183 yards for eagle at the par-4 11th. He closed his round with two birdies and a bogey over his final seven holes, earning him a share of the lead.
“I just hauled off a 6?iron and it looked like it went really close,” Percy said of his approach on No. 11. “The cameraman sort of made a, ‘Whoa!’ I thought, oh, it must be pretty close. We got up there and we were looking, and the cameraman goes, ‘No, it went in.’ We had no idea.”
Percy, who is making only his 11th Korn Ferry Tour start this season, has recorded two top-10s and five top-25s in 2019. The 45-year-old suffered a wrist injury earlier this year while on vacation with his family.
“I’ve played three events in four months, I think,” Percy recalled. “I just haven’t played any golf. I fractured my wrist earlier in the year, I was really struggling to start off just getting in the rhythm of playing golf again.”
The injury left Percy sidelined for all of April and May, but he still managed to finish the Regular Season ranked 58th in The 25. Despite the setback, the Australian still has his sights set on a return to the PGA TOUR.
Sitting alone in third place is Doug Ghim who opened with a 6-under 65 on Thursday. Ghim won the 2018 Ben Hogan Award as the top male college golfer while at the University of Texas. The 23-year-old has made six PGA TOUR starts this season and is in search of his first PGA TOUR card.