Writing from Carmel, Indiana
Thursday, September 8, 2016
Some golfers allow their games to be disrupted when a weather delay hits in the middle of a round. Roberto Castro is not one of those golfers.
He played the first 12 holes in 5-under-par on Thursday, waited out a lightning and monsoon delay of 3 hours 33 minutes, then poured in three more birdies in a round sullied only by a bogey at the last.
He’ll take a 7-under par 65 under any circumstance, especially that one. It resulted in his being the leader with about half the field finished in the first round of the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick Golf Club.
Castro is a stroke ahead of Brian Harman, whose bogey-free 66 included an eagle, and two ahead of U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnston and Jason Dufner, who are in at 5-under 65, and Jason Kirk, whose 5-under 31 places him in prime position to surpass Castro and the others when play resumes at 8 a.m. Eastern Time on Friday.
But Castro can’t sleep in. With more foul weather forecast, the PGA Tour will play the second stanza of this tournament – the 113th Western Open to traditionalists – off the first and 10th tee beginning at 10 a.m.
No biggie, Castro says.
“We have been dealing with this since we were kids playing junior golf,” Castro said. “I’m just glad to get the round in.”
Even the last hole, where he missed a 7-footer for par. But the eight birdies before, including a chip-in on the 14th, his second hole after the break, made up for it.
“It looked like it was going to miss on the left, and it fell in,” Castro said. “It was nice to kind of get back thinking about birdies.”
Conditions changed after 84 hundredths of an inch of rain fell, most of it in a 20-minute cloudburst. What had been fast fairways and greens hard to hold became cushions for tee shots and dartboards for approaches.
While Harman was in the day’s first group, and was 4-under through 13 holes at the break at 1:27 p.m. ET, even he was able to take advantage a bit, eagling the par-5 15th to finish the day 5-under on the par-5s, sterling for a shortish hitter.
“I haven’t played the par-5s very well (this year), so I’ve been working real hard on my fairway woods trying to hit a few more,” Harman allowed.
That worked, and it helped erase the memory of Monday’s final round in Boston, where he entered a contender, three strokes off the lead, and left tied for 24th after a closing 77.
“I got killed,” Harman said. “I was very disappointed by that. At the same time I played well enough to be in the tournament.”
He hasn’t won since the 2014 John Deere Classic – his only victory on the big tour – and came in ranked 57th in the standings. If he gets into the top 30 in points, he plays in Atlanta in a fortnight for the $10 million bonus. If he doesn’t, season over.
“I don’t know if my game plan changes at all,” Harman said, but admitted that with the course soft, and unlikely to dry out overnight, “you’re going to have to make a few more birdies now.”
That was the plan here four years ago, when four days of lift, clean and place yielded a 20-under-par victor in Rory McIlroy. Who, by the by, is 3-under through 10 holes.
Dufner had seven birdies and two bogeys en route to his 67, as did Johnson, albeit more spectacularly thanks to his length. He finished at the horn, just before 8 p.m. ET.
“It saves a couple of hours sleep to come back and have to finish one hole,” Johnson said.
He bogeyed it, but Dufner birdied Nos. 15, 16 and 18 to finish with a flourish.
“I had a good day going,” Dufner said.
Along with Kirk, the players to watch Friday morning – and Golf Channel coverage starts at 8 a.m. Central Time – are Hideki Matsuyama, 4-under through 12 holes, and Paul Casey and Adam Scott, both 4-under through 10 holes, though Scott bogeyed the 10th after finishing the front nine birdie-eagle for a saucy 31.
To this point, 45 players are under par and another five are at par. In other words, as was the case four years ago here, it’s a birdiefest, and given the conditions, that will continue.
Around Crooked Stick
Thirty-six players are yet to finish, with 33 in the house. ... Defending champion and world No. 1 Jason Day fired a 1-over-par 73, but under an assumed name. He was announced on the first tee as “Jordan Day,” but laughed and then the announcer corrected himself. ... The partial scoring average for the first round is 71.182 strokes. Four years ago, under lift, clean and place, it was 69.471.
– Tim Cronin