ARAGON, FLORES SHARE OPENING-ROUND LEAD AT NATIONWIDE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL CHAMPIONSHIP

First-Round Leaderboard

Pos. Name Score
1 Alex Aragon 67 (-4)
Martin Flores 67 (-4)
3 Aaron Watkins 68 (-3)
Blake Adams 68 (-3)
Steve Marino 68 (-3)
Brad Elder 68 (-3)
Derek Ernst 68 (-3)

 

ARAGON, FLORES SHARE OPENING-ROUND LEAD AT NATIONWIDE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Columbus, Ohio – Alex Aragon fired a 4-under 67 early in the day and wound up sharing the first-round lead with afternoon starter Martin Flores at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, the third of four Web.com Tour Finals events.

Aaron Watkins, Blake Adams, Steve Marino, Brad Elder and Derek Ernst all posted 3-under 68s and are tied for third place, while another six players are knotted at 69, including Henrik Norlander and Chez Reavie, the winners of the first two Finals events.

Aragon has been battling to find fairways for most of the year and ran into similar problems Thursday, hitting only five of 14 fairways at the difficult Scarlet Course at Ohio State University.

“A lot of good golf with bad scoring,” said Aragon of his 2015 Web.com Tour season which saw him finish No. 68 on the Regular Season money list. “I’ve been working really hard on trying to get off the tee boxes. I’ve taken a lot of penalty strokes the last month or so. Keeping it in play off the tee has been my focus for the last month.”

Though he didn’t hit many in the short grass, the 2001 Stanford grad was particularly pleased with his play on the par-4, 1st hole, his 10th of the day.

“I told my caddie I think I outsmarted everybody off of one today,” he said. “I saw almost everyone else hitting driver but I hit 2-iron. With a 2-iron you just hit it up the left side and you just give yourself the fat half of the fairway. If you hit it any distance at all, the left half of the fairway is not there because you’re going to go right through it.”

Aragon needed only a wedge for his second shot on the 435-yard hole and canned his fifth, and last, birdie putt of the round.

The 36-year old Californian began on the back nine and managed to get off to a better start this week with birdies at Nos. 11, 12 and 13, a far cry from the quintuple bogey-10 he posted on his third hole of the opening round at last week’s Small Business Connection Championship at River Run.

“The main thing going on with me is that I’ve just been ruining my score right out of the gate,” said Aragon, who opened with a 79 a week ago. “I didn’t overthink anything today. You’ve just go to play the angles on this golf course and be patient. There are no easy putts and no easy shots.”

Flores, who finished No. 156 in the PGA TOUR’s FedExCup standings this year, added his name as a co-leader with a five-foot birdie putt on his closing hole, the 9th.

“I’m happy with the start,” said Flores, a University of Oklahoma grad. “Most of the year I’ve played three good days and one terrible day. That’s how I’ve been and I’ve been trying to turn that around and have more consistency. I’m happy with how I did today but past that, I’m not really looking much ahead.”

If he did he would see a difficult golf course that may get tougher as the week progresses. Last year the par-71 Scarlet course was the most difficult on Tour after a four-day scoring average of 72.590. Thursday’s opener produced a scoring average of 72.976 and saw only 13 players post sub-70 scores and only 28 break par.

“It’s brutal,” said Norlander, who won the Hotel Fitness Championship two weeks ago in Indiana. “It’s shocking. I think it’s the toughest golf course in the world. I haven’t played many tougher. You can’t relax on one single hole. There is not one single hole where you can get away with hitting a bad shot and still make par. Here, if you lose focus, you’re making bogeys and doubles quickly.”

Reavie, winner last week at the Small Business Connection Championship at River Run near Charlotte, said the exact same thing about the famed Scarlet course.

“This course is brutal. Every hole has teeth,” he said. “You have to be on your game. You have to be putting well and you have to be chipping well. It’s very, very difficult.”

THURSDAY NOTES:

* Thursday weather: Mostly sunny. Wind E 6-12 mph. High of 81.

* This week’s purse is $1M with $180,000 awarded to the champion.

* This is the third tournament in the Web.com Tour Finals, a series of four events that will conclude at the Web.com Tour Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Sept. 28-Oct. 4. Twenty-five PGA TOUR cards were awarded two weeks ago following the WinCo Foods Portland Open. An additional 25 cards are up for grabs during the four Finals events, as well as positioning for all 50 cards.

* This is the third year of the Finals format and it’s difficult to gauge exactly how much money it will take to finish in the top-25 on the Finals money list and collect one of the remaining 25 PGA TOUR cards that will be handed out in a few weeks. Here’s how much money the No. 25 man on the money list earned in each of the past two years:
2013    No. 25 Bobby Gates    $33,650.00
2014    No. 25 Eric Axley       $36,311.66
2015    No. 25 ???                  ???

* With two of the four Finals completed, it’s still difficult to gauge exactly how much money it will take to secure a top-25 spot on the money list, but history dictates that something over the $40,000 mark could be enough to garner a 2015-16 PGA TOUR card. Here is a list of those 10 players who have topped that number after two events and how they finished in the Hotel Fitness Championship and Small Business Connection Championship at River Run, respectively:
– Chez Reavie                 $203,000        T10, 1st
– Henrik Norlander      $180,000         1st, m/c
– Emiliano Grillo           $103,666         9th, T2
– Michael Thompson    $90,630           T2, T56
– Brett Stegmaier           $71,000           8th, 5th
– Ricky Barnes                $50,500           T16, 6
– Anirban Lahiri             $49,500           T6, T16
– Kyle Stanley                 $46,750            T16, T7
– Hiroshi Iwata              $44,000            T4, m/c
– Sam Saunders             $44,000            T4, dnp

 

* Brett Stegmaier (74) and Nicholas Lindheim (79) both withdrew following completion of the first round.

* Darron Stiles (73) was disqualified following the first round. Stiles used a club that was damaged during the round other than in the normal course of play. The damage changed the playing characteristics of the club.

* Through 23 events this season on Tour, Alex Aragon has made nine cuts and recorded three top-10 performances. His best showing came at the Utah Championship (T3) in August.

 

* In 2014, Aragon played the PGA TOUR full time and made just two cuts in 18 starts.

 

“Really last year was – I don’t know. It was just a snowball effect,” he said. “I don’t think I played any worse. Kind of on the same thing: I felt like I played fine. I putter poorly at the wrong times and just missed it – when you’re only playing two days a week it’s hard to really know what you’re doing.”

 

* Martin Flores failed to post a top-10 performance for the first time in five seasons on the PGA TOUR. Flores played in 30 events on TOUR, competed on the weekend 18 times and finished 156 in the FedExCup standings.

 

* The last time Flores posted four rounds under par in a tournament on TOUR was the 2014 CareerBuilder Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.

 

* Aaron Watkins has missed 10 of 12 cuts since a T10 at the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation back in May.

 

“Up early, then down pretty much until today,” he said of his year to date. “Just kind of the way it goes, highs and lows. Just to have kind of ride it out and just know that, you know, it’ll get better.”

 

* Blake Adams posted his lowest first-round score this season since the CareerBuilder Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation (64) in January.

 

* Akron, Ohio native Ryan Armour carded a 76 on Thursday morning and failed to record a single birdie during his round. In five previous starts in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, the former Ohio State Buckeye has made just one cut. The 5-over round today is his highest opening-round in this event. Armour spent four years in Columbus and graduated in 1999. He has played the Scarlett course countless times but not as much after it was redesigned in 2003.

 

“You want it to be home but it’s not,” he admitted. “I don’t know anything out here anymore. I don’t know the reads, the lines off the tee. It’s great to be home with family, friends, ex-teammates, coaches, and that stuff, the Ohio State Nation.”

 

* Web.com Tour leading money winner Patton Kizzire carded a 4-over 75 in the first round. This is the highest opening-round score this season for Kizzire and only the fourth time in 22 events he has recorded a score over par on his first 18.

 

* Peter Malnati’s 5-over 76 in the first round ties his highest opening-round score this season (Colombia Championship presented by Claro). This is the fifth time this year Malnati has failed to post a score of par or better to start a tournament.

* Scoring averages for the week:
Front (36)        Back (35)         Total (71)         Cumulative
R1       36.648             36.328             72.976             —

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