CALGARY, ALTA. — It would be quite the understatement to say that Taylor Pendrith feels pretty good on the golf course right now.
In his first tournament round since firing a course-record-setting 62 four days ago in Edmonton, Pendrith once again fired a 62, this time matching the Country Hills Golf Club course record, to take the first-round lead at the ATB Financial Classic.
“To continue the momentum was great,” said the 28-year old. “I hit the ball really good today, didn’t make too many mistakes and my putter saved me a few times.”
It’s only fitting that, since Canada Day, nobody on the Mackenzie Tour has played better golf than Pendrith.
From the start of the Windsor Championship to Thursday’s round, a stretch of 17 tournament rounds, Pendrith has a scoring average of 66.5 and is a combined 84-under par, 13 strokes better than the next-closest player, Lorens Chan (71-under).
“I’ve played really good golf the past three or four weeks, and I’m in a groove,” said Pendrith, who has shot 68 or better in 14 of those 17 rounds. “It feels easy. Sometimes golf feels really hard, but right now I’m hitting it great and putting well, so it’s a good combo.”
In three previous Mackenzie Tour visits to Calgary, Pendrith has made one cut. Thursday’s 62 is his best score by four strokes.
“I haven’t played this place well in the past,” said the Richmond Hill, Ontario, native. “I have a good game plan this week, though, and today I hit a lot of fairways and didn’t make too many mistakes.”
Starting his round on the back nine, Pendrith made birdie on his second hole of the day before knocking an 8-iron approach to 10 feet on the par-5 13th, a putt he rolled in for eagle to move to 3-under par.
Making two more birdies before the turn, Pendrith opened his back nine with three consecutive birdies to match Stoney Crouch’s clubhouse lead, at 8-under.
Marking down one more circle on his scorecard, on No. 8, Pendrith capped his day with a 20-foot par make on his final hole to match Corey Pereira, Michael Schoolcraft and Lee Hodges’ scores of 62, all set at last year’s event.
“I didn’t know the record until just now, and it’s pretty cool,” said Pendrith, who has four top-10 finishes this season and has made all but one cut. “It was a pretty special day. I’m honestly just playing golf. and I’m in a good mental spot and having fun.”
Pendrith, who has posted two consecutive bogey-free rounds and has only made one bogey in his last 54 holes, played alongside fellow Canadian and friend Riley Wheeldon on Thursday, who fired his best-career opening round on the Mackenzie Tour, a 63.
“It was just fun seeing a lot of good golf shots,” said Wheeldon. “I just wanted to keep pace with Taylor out there, and I did for the most part.
“A couple times a year the draw gives you a gift,” Wheeldon continued. “This was one of them. Obviously, [Pendrith] is playing good, and he’s a good friend and a good guy, so I was looking forward to it.”
In addition to having the chance to move to the top spot on the Order of Merit with a win, Pendrith is looking to pick up his fourth consecutive Canada Life Canadian Player of the Week award.
In his second Mackenzie Tour start of the season, Golf Canada Young Pro Squad member Stuart Macdonald fired an opening-round 63, his lowest-career round in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event.
This is the third-consecutive tournament that Stoney Crouch has fired an opening round of 67 or better. In his previous two first rounds, he shot a 64 at the HFX Pro-Am and a 67 at the 1932byBateman Open, Crouch responded with second-round 65s.
What a difference a week makes. Last week at the 1932byBateman Open, Zach Zaback shot 72-75 and missed the cut. On Thursday at Country Hills, the UConn alum shot a bogey-free 64, making four consecutive birdies to close his first round.
For the second consecutive year, Jonathan Garrick began the ATB Financial Classic 9-under through 13 holes. In 2018 Garrick ended up firing a 63, while on Thursday the UCLA alum signed for a 64.
Entering the 2019 season with conditional status after a T18 Q-School finish, Christopher Petefish managed his best-career Mackenzie Tour finish last week at the 1932byBateman Open in the form of a T14 after a final-round 66. Maintaining his momentum, the 24-year old fired his best-career Mackenzie Tour round on Thursday, making six birdies and an eagle to shoot 64.
Looking to earn Korn Ferry Tour status in his first professional season, Travis Trace sits outside the top-10 on the order of merit by just over $3,000, currently in 11th spot. Trace managed a round of 66 or better for the eighth time this season, making just a single bogey on his way to an opening-round 65.
“There’s a lot going on when you win, but that’s a good thing. I just switched my mind over and remembered it’s just another golf tournament, and I prepared like I always have for a tournament. I did a decent job of that Tuesday and Wednesday. To get started today with a 62 feels great.” – Taylor Pendrith
“I was trying to make birdie (on No. 18), which is why I hit driver. You can’t let up out here. I hit a pretty good drive, but it kicked right. If I was a yard left, I would have ended up with a birdie putt, but instead it kicked into a tree and I had nothing. So I went back, hit a decent wedge shot to a pin that’s hard to get to from the rough, and did about as well as I could have from there and hit a really good putt.” – Taylor Pendrith
“I think during the round you get into the flow and don’t think about how good you’re playing. You just think about each shot. Early in the week, I felt like I was playing good and expecting something like today to happen. As golfers, we don’t feel like that way often, so it was a calming feeling to feel good about every facet of the game.” – Riley Wheeldon
“I have a different mindset this year. I’m more appreciative and thankful, and I take each day as it comes. I had full status last year so, when I didn’t play well I’d just go to the next event. This year, I had conditional status and tried to Monday (qualify) into the first few (tournaments) and only got into Vancouver. I got into the reshuffle and now I’m thankful to be here and have more of a one-day-at-a-time mindset. – Stoney Crouch
“I was in the bunker on my first hole after a bad shot into the bunker, so I was just thinking that if I could get up and down, I thought it would be a good day. I hit a great shot, made some putts throughout the day and kept on tallying and kept on rolling.” – Stoney Crouch
“Out here you know there will be guys who shoot 8-under every day. If you shoot 5-under and then even-par the next day, you get lapped. You have to keep on hitting fairways and rolling the putts in.” – Stoney Crouch
“I didn’t really have to make too many putts, I hit my irons well and hit a lot of fairways. I turned at 3-under and then had a really good birdie on No. 10. I hit a really good 8-iron to three feet and only had one bogey, and I horseshoed a two-footer, so it was pretty solid all day. –Travis Trace
“I got lucky on No. 15, making a 25-footer that would have went about 10 feet by. But it hit the back of the hole and went in, so that was a bonus.” – Travis Trace
“With the elevation here, you have to do some calculations (on) every shot with it being over 4,000 feet. It’s the same deal, if you hit fairways, you’ll have some looks and the course is in perfect shape, so I’m taking advantage of it. It’s kind of weird hitting 8-iron from 220 yards, but you just have to trust it.” – Travis Trace
“I made birdie on No. 6. I had a really good number today, 140 yards downwind, so it was a stock gap wedge, and I hit it close and made a good putt. The downwind holes were pretty scorable, so I took advantage of the next par-5 and made birdie and then hit good shots on the last two to finish strong. I definitely needed this to build the confidence up because I’ve been struggling.” – Zack Zaback
“It has been more mental. I switched putters, which helped, and I made a lot of putts today. Putting wasn’t good last week, and I needed a little bit of confidence and found it somehow today, so I figured I would put in a little work and scores would come around.” – Zack Zaback
“I hit 3-wood off the tee on No. 13 because I didn’t want to go in the water long. I hit a perfect 4-iron to 10 feet and made it. I made a couple bogeys coming home, but they weren’t defensive bogeys; that’s just the way it goes sometimes.” – Jonathan Garrick
“Last year, when I was 9-under through 13, I started thinking about 59, and I didn’t play well after that. So I tried to take it one shot at a time today, but I definitely thought about it a little bit. The finishing holes aren’t quite as easy as the first 13.” – Jonathan Garrick
“I like this place because it’s firm, and I spin [the ball] a lot and hit it higher than most guys. I also like faster greens and more of a links-style layout, where the fairway is surrounded by fescue.” – Jonathan Garrick
“I got off to a pretty good start. I had a challenging up-and-down right away and converted to keep momentum going, and then I just gave myself a lot of opportunities. I hit it a lot better than this past week.” – Chris Petefish
“I put in some good work on the range on Tuesday and just had a lot of chances and kept it stress-free.” – Chris Petefish
“I’m only going to have five or six opportunities to finish in the top 25 or the top 60, so the mentality is win or go home. Making the cut is a have-to at this point ,with fewer events, so I have to go make a ton of birdies and play aggressive and play well, because I have less tournaments to do so.” – Chris Petefish
“I’ve hit it much better this year compared to last. I made a commitment to make some adjustments in my swing I thought I had to make. I have the ability to go lower than I ever have, to hit it closer and make more birdies. It’s been a process, but my swing is a bit more dependable now.” – Chris Petefish
First-Round Weather: Sunny. High of 28. Wind 10 KPH.