Golf – Nimmer starts quickly and grabs early Auburn lead

Golf

AUBURN, Alabama – SPORTS – It may seem like, ho-hum, Bryson Nimmer is leading a LOCALiQ Series tournament. After all, he is a two-time winner this season. However, this is the first time Nimmer has held a share of the lead other than at the end of a tournament. The Race to The Bahamas Points Standings leader opened with a 9-birdie, no-bogey 63 at The Invitational at Auburn University Club to take a one-shot lead over Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz in the fourth LOCALiQ Series event of the season.

Akshay Bhatia, making his Series debut, and Nimmer’s former high school teammate Trace Crowe are at 7-under and two behind. Officials halted play at 7:06 p.m. CDT due to darkness. Ryan Snouffer is at 7-under through 15, pushing his way up the leaderboard. Players will resume their first rounds at 8 a.m., Wednesday.

Late in his back nine, Nimmer figured 7- or 8-under would be leading the tournament at the end of the first day. When he made a birdie on No. 16 to move to 8-under, Nimmer felt one more birdie would give him the outright lead. He was correct.

“I was going right at the pin on 18 and hit a really good one,” he said of his last-hole birdie. His 63 is not his low score of the season, however. Nimmer shot a 62 on the final day in winning the Alpharetta Classic. “My goal is to always start off and not make too many mistakes on the first day. If you do that, occasionally it turns out to be a really low one.

“That was my goal, like always,” he continued, “to limit the bogeys and just shoot a good number in the 60s. That way you have a good set for the rest of the week. Today, I was able to take it really low.”

Nimmer’s only quarrel on his day was the eight-foot birdie putt he missed on 12 after missing the par-5 green in two. “I didn’t get the chip all the way back there. That was probably the only one I missed that I should have made,” he added.

A week after missing the cut, Ortiz corrected some things and put himself in contention through 18 holes. His only bogey came on his ninth hole of the day, but nine birdies didn’t hurt.

Bhatia finished the day tied with Australian James Anstiss and Crowe, who played college golf at Auburn after attending Hilton Head Christian Academy with Nimmer.  Crowe has played countless rounds at Auburn University Club, and his experience showed Tuesday, with seven birdies and no bogeys.

Did you know Akshay Bhatia won six tournaments during his final two seasons as an amateur? In 2018, he won the Junior Invitational at Sage Valley, the Polo Golf Junior Classic, the Boy’s Junior PGA Championship and the Rolex Tournament of Champions at PGA National in Florida. In February 2019, Bhatia captured the Jones Cup Invitational in Sea Island, Ga., beating Davis Thompson in a playoff. He finished his run of wins at the Dustin Johnson World Junior Championship at TPC Myrtle Beach in early March, winning by six shots.

Race to The Bahamas Points Standings

Through The Classic at Callaway Gardens

Pos. Player (Home Tour) Points
1 Bryson Nimmer (Mackenzie Tour) 1,056.0
2 Hayden Shieh (Mackenzie Tour) 600.0
3 Stoney Crouch (Mackenzie Tour) 517.5
4 Patrick Cover (PGA TOUR Series-China) 271.1
5 Raul Pereda (PGA TOUR Latinoamérica) 266.4
6 Alex Smalley (Mackenzie Tour) 260.0
7 Isaiah Salinda (Mackenzie Tour) 215.6
8 Justin Suh (PGA TOUR Latinoamérica) 209.4
9 Alejandro Tosti (PGA TOUR Latinoamérica) 208.3
10 Carson Young (Mackenzie Tour) 184.3

 

Key Information  

  • With only this tournament remaining in the Southern Company Swing, Bryson Nimmer still leads in the chase that rewards a $7,500 first prize from Southern Company to the player who earns the most points during the LOCALiQ Series’ first four events. The second-place finisher earns $2,500 courtesy of the Southern Company. Nimmer and Hayden Shiehare the only two players who can win, Shieh still mathematically able to pass Nimmer if he wins this week and Nimmer finishes outside the top 20.
  • The No. 1 player in the Race to The Bahamas Points Standings at the conclusion of the final event of the season, the LOCALiQ Series Championship at the Ocean Club Golf Course at Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas, earns a PGA TOUR start at a 2020-21 PGA TOUR event.
  • The top-78 eligible players on the Race to The Bahamas Points Standings following the final event of the season, the Classic at The Club at Weston Hills in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., will also qualify for the LOCALiQ Series Championship.
  • The 47-minute weather delay occurred while Bryson Nimmer was on the sixth green. After going back on the course, he knocked in his 10-footer there, chipped to two feet on No. 7 for a tap-in, rolled in a four-footer on the eighth and finished his birdie run with an eight-foot putt on No. 9.
  • Hayden Shieh had a quick start to his opening round, getting to 3-under through six holes. But two double bogeys—the first at No. 7 and the second at No. 14, slowed him down. He finished at even-par and is tied for 87th.
  • The left-handed Akshay Bhatia reached as high as No. 4 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He elected to not play college golf. Bhatia remained an amateur so he could represent the U.S. in the 2019 Walker Cup, turning pro afterward.
  • This season, Akshay Bhatia has played in six PGA TOUR events, missing the cut in all six. Playing well on the first day hasn’t been the problem, as he has been under-par in every first round. His first-round stroke average of 70.0 has been three strokes worse in his second rounds. Next week, Bhatia will play in the Safeway Open, the PGA TOUR’s 2020-21 season-opening tournament.
  • Akshay Bhatia’s shot of the day came at the par-5 fourth, his 13th. After a solid drive, he faced a second shot from 238 yards. Playing partner Joshua Lee had just hit his second-shot approach using a 3-iron from 250 yards. “I didn’t think I had any chance of getting to the pin,” Bhatia said. “I thought if anything I would be front edge or short. I got up there and said, ‘Great shot, Josh,’ and it ended up being my ball, two feet from the hole. I was in shock that I hit it that far from where I was.”
  • Alex Smalley didn’t let his disappointing final round at The Classic at Callaway Gardens last Friday slow him down. The former Duke golfer went out Tuesday and opened with a 6-under 66 that left him tied for seventh just four days after he began the final round in Georgia with a share of the lead but shot a closing, even-par 72. Smalley’s 66 isn’t even in his top-three-lowest rounds this season. He had a 65 and a 63 at the Alpharetta Classic and a Series-record 60 last week at Callaway Gardens.
  • Jacob Solomon played collegiately at nearby Auburn and is more than familiar with the Auburn University Club. Playing on a sponsor’s exemption, Solomon, who graduated in 2019, made six birdies—including four in a row to start his day—and a bogey to finish at 5-under. He’s tied for 13th. A sponsor exemption playing spot for Solomon became available when Argentina’s Leandro Marelli withdrew after earning entrance into this week’s Korn Ferry Tour event, the Lincoln Land Championship in Illinois.
  • Eric Ansett was bogey-free last week at The Classic at Callaway Gardens, however his 69-68-68 performance only earned him a tie for 27th. He did not have a bogey-free round last week but did Tuesday, with his birdies coming at Nos. 1, 3, 7, 8, 10 and 17. He finished his day birdie-birdie-par, playing Auburn University Club’s front nine last. After a two-putt birdie at the par-5 seventh, he made a 25-foot, downhill birdie at No. 8.
  • In his rookie season as a professional on the Mackenzie Tour in 2019, Eric Ansett played in 10 of the 12 events, making six cuts but only finishing inside the top 25 once—a tie for 23rd at the DC Bank Open. He finished 97th on the Order of Merit but re-earned his playing privileges at the Dothan, Ala., Qualifying Tournament.
  • Through the first three LOCALiQ Series tournaments, Jack Faraci had only broken par once, in the second round at the Alpharetta Classic. His stroke average in his three missed cuts was 73.83. Faraci opened with a 67 and is tied for 13th.
  • Jack Faraci played college golf at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort and earned Mackenzie Tour status at the Qualifying Tournament at Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., in March. After opening 77-76, he caught fire and finished 70-69 to finish 14th and earn his membership.
  • This week the Junior PLAYERS Championship is taking place at TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. A year ago, Akshay Bhatia finished second to Travis Vick in that event, losing in a three-man playoff that also included China’s Bo Jin.
  • Stoney Crouch kept the momentum from his win last week going. He opened with a 5-under 67, with four birdies, a bogey and an eagle at No. 7. Despite missing the cut in the Alpharetta Classic, Crouch has yet to shoot anything but under-par scores this season. His results: 70-71-70-69-70-64-66-66-67. He’s a combined 35-under par.
  • Counting his three-hole playoff win against Hayden Shieh at The Classic at Callaway Gardens, Stoney Crouch has made three bogeys in his last 76 holes.
  • There are two amateurs in this week’s field, China’s Aaron Du and American Andy Ogletree. Ogletree opened with a 2-under 70, while Du, the second amateur from China (Yuxin Lin is the other) to play on the LOCALiQ Series, is at 2-under through 15 holes when officials halted play. Du is in the field by virtue of his tie-for-fourth finish at the PGA TOUR Series-China Qualifying Tournament in January. Ogletree is a sponsor’s exemption.

Quotable

“I think I really did a really good job today not worrying about it. I just chalked it up to bad reads and not hitting the ball close enough.” –Bryson Nimmer on his three-par start to his first round

“I’ve been playing a lot of really good golf, and I think I lose sight of how good I’ve actually played. I’ve shot multiple rounds of 65 and under since the restart of golf. I can’t really complain where my game’s at. It’s just constantly trying to get more consistent and build more momentum when I play.” –Akshay Bhatia

It was a good day. I made a lot of birdies and a few mistakes. It was pretty enjoyable, for sure.” –Akshay Bhatia

“it was a solid round. After last week, my game really wasn’t in good shape. The good thing about missing the cut is I had a couple of days to work and I got it figured out with my coach.” –Alvaro Ortiz

“I had some lucky breaks on a couple of drives when I hit it into the trees. I had a couple of windows between the trees and hit some really good shots. So I think I stole a couple of shots from the course. The course also took a couple from me that I lipped out on the high side.” –Alvaro Ortiz

“I was finding the fairway, always finding myself inside 20 feet, 15 feet, and the greens are rolling pretty good. I feel comfortable with the putter.” –Alvaro Ortiz

“I was striking the ball well and giving myself a lot of (birdie) looks. I think the shots I hit coming in on No. 7 and then on 8 and nine, they were just very solid. I just stuck to my gameplan. I wanted to get on the putting surface because I was rolling it really good.” –Alvaro Ortiz

“For me I treat every day as a new day. It’s pretty nice playing this event because it feels so normal, like you’re playing with a bunch of guys in Florida. I’m really just trying to enjoy myself.” –Akshay Bhatia

“I definitely have it in me. It’s hard when I don’t have consecutive weeks on TOUR. If you’re able to get into a rhythm of playing week in and week out, I think once I get over that hump, I’ll be right there contending.” –Akshay Bhatia on his inability to make a cut in his first six PGA TOUR starts

“I would say the last five holes of most of my tournaments is where I haven’t been able to gather my thoughts mentally. I still think I’ve gotten better mentally from the first TOUR event I played to the last one I played. It’s dealing with the adrenaline. I’m still obviously learning, and the only way to learn is if you fail.” –Akshay Bhatia

“It wasn’t any one stretch where I got hot. I was just steady all day.” –Eric Ansett 

“I made some birdies out of the rough today, which was fortunate. I aimed at the fat of the green when I missed the fairway and was able to judge the distances pretty well, so I didn’t get into any spots where I was really threatening to make bogey.” –Eric Ansett

“I had a good read on it, and it rolled nicely.” –Eric Ansett on his 25-foot birdie putt at No. 8

Next LOCALiQ Series Tournament: 

September 23-25

Jacksonville Championship

Hidden Hills Golf Club

Jacksonville, Florida

First-Round Weather: Warm and humid. High of 89. Wind W at 4-6 mph. Officials halted play at 1:58 p.m., for 47 minutes due to a dangerous weather situation.