Greenville, S.C. – Byron Smith and Matt Fast matched opening rounds of 8-under 63 on Thursday at tournament host Thornblade Club to share the opening-round lead in the Web.com Tour’s BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation.
Smith entered the week in Greenville with just four Web.com Tour starts to his name in 2016, but blistered the Tom Fazio-designed Thornblade course with nine birdies, Including four birdies in his last five holes.
Former Clemson golfer Jonathan Byrd and Furman alumn and Greenville resident Matt Davidson are among those just two strokes off the lead at six-under.
“Pretty much one club – the putter. That was about it, but it was working really well,” said Smith when asked what clicked on Thursday. “So that can really make up for a lot. I hit a few squirrelly shots off of the tee, but managed to hustle par on those. I just made a lot of putts.”
The former Pepperdine golfer won the Rex Hospital Open in 2014 en route to earning his PGA TOUR card for the 2014-15 season, but struggled on golf’s biggest stage with just one top-25 in 21 starts during his rookie season.
The 35-year-old Smith has made the cut in each of his four Web.com Tour starts this year, posting a season-best T18 at the El Bosque Mexico Championship presented by INNOVA. He is currently 83rd on the money list.
“I felt like it was coming around, and everything was in a good place. The driver is still kind of giving me some problems, but everything else has been really good,” he said.
“So if I could just manage to avoid the foul ball, then I feel like I could put a good score together.”
Fast, who opened his week on No. 10 at Thornblade, birdied four of his first eight holes to turn in 4-under 32 before adding a flurry of birdies down the stretch on his way to a share of the 18-hole lead.
Birdies on Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 6 were offset by a bogey on the par-4 seventh, but the former Mississippi State golfer rebounded with a birdie on No. 8 to move back to 8-under on the day, which is where he finished for a round of 63.
“Yeah, you know you got to make birdies this week and then add ball in hand for three days, so just hit fairways and you’ve got wedges, 9 irons, and 8 irons. I feel great. It’s not my first lead of the year so I’m looking forward to it,” said Fast, who was the 36-hole leader at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by NACHER in March.
Fast’s 2016 season has been up and down, with six made cuts in eight starts entering the week, but just one top-25 finish to his name – a T23 finish at last week’s Rex Hospital Open.
Without intention of pun, his starts have been fast, notching seven rounds of 68 or better in the first two rounds of play, but only two rounds in the 60’s in his final two rounds of competition.
“I got an old caddie back, which we’ve always played well together. So I was really excited about that. Just getting into the flow of the year,” said Fast, who reunited with caddie David O’Donovan in Raleigh. “I was hurt at the beginning of the year and actually played good on some Thursdays and Fridays, but (now we’re) just getting in the flow of it and letting it go.”
Five players set the pace at tournament co-host The Reserve at Lake Keowee, with Chris Baker, Brandon Hagy, Sebastian Cappelen, Adam Schenk and Rex Hospital Open champion Trey Mullinax matching rounds of 7-under 65 on Thursday.
Mullinax, who closed in 30 to win his first Web.com Tour title at TPC Wakefield Plantation on Sunday, birdied five of his first six holes in the opening round before adding a late eagle on the par-5 17th to move to 7-under for the day.
The former Alabama standout moved from No. 33 to No. 4 on the money list with last week’s win, which pushed his 2016 earnings up to $154,486.
Canadian Adam Svensson, who earned medalist honors at the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament in December, and former Western Amateur champion Jhared Hack posted the day’s low rounds at The Preserve at Verdae with a pair of 67s.
The 22-year-old Svensson was even par through eight holes at the tournament’s newest host venue before birdieing five of his final 10 holes to round out his 5-under-par effort.
Svensson, who finished ninth on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada’s Order of Merit in just six starts last year, earned full exempt status on the 2016 Web.com Tour with his Q-School win. The former Barry University golfer turned professional at the start of 2015 before competing on the Mackenzie Tour, where he ended the year ranked No. 1 in Scoring Average (Actual), thanks in part to four top-5 finishes.
* Thursday weather: Cloudy with showers at times. Wind E-NE at 6-12 mph. Daytime high of 74 degrees.
* This week’s purse is $675,000, with $121,500 going to the champion.
* Byron Smith has never lead/co-lead after the first round on the Web.com Tour. He was T3 after the first round of the 2013 News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot, where he finished T25.
* Smith’s 63 on Thursday tied his career-low round on the Web.com Tour, matching a third-round 63 in the 2014 Rex Hospital Open. He went on to win by four strokes that week for his lone victory on the Web.com Tour.
* Jason Allred tied the best first round of his career Thursday with a bogey-free 7-under 64 at Thornblade. In four career starts at the BMW Charity Pro-Am, Allred has three top-20s. He opened with rounds of 65-65 a year ago but closed with rounds of 70-71 to finish T16. The former Pepperdine grad is making his 141st career Web.com Tour start and is in search of his first career Tour win.
* Matt Fast’s 63 tied a career-best, and delivered a share of the 18-hole lead for the third time in his Web.com Tour career. The last time Fast shot 63 was the first round at the 2014 WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft Heinz, where he went on to finish T41. Fast also held the 18-hole lead at the 2014 News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot, but finished T30.
* Former British Amateur champion Drew Weaver posted a 5-under 67 at Thornblade, marking his lowest round on the Web.com Tour since a final-round 66 at the 2011 Chiquita Classic. Weaver, who finished eighth on the
Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada Order of Merit last year, is currently committed to next week’s season-opening Freedom 55 Financial Open in Vancouver, B.C., where he’s the defending champion. The former Virginia Tech golfer has posted missed cuts in each of his two starts on Tour this year.
* Local resident and former Furman University golfer Matt Davidson carded a 5-under 67 at Thornblade, thanks to an eagle on the par-5 fifth. The 35-year-old has made five of seven cuts this year, but missed two of his last three. In four career starts at the BMW Charity Pro-Am, Davidson owns one top-10 finish – a T7 in 2014.
* After shooting a 4-over 40 on the front nine at The Preserve at Verdae, J.T. Poston rebounded with a bogey-free 31 on the back nine that included birdies on his final four holes to finish in red figures at 1-under. Poston earned his spot in the field via back-to-back top-25 finishes in his last two starts after Monday qualifying for the United Leasing & Finance Championship and notching a career-best solo-third-place finish at last week’s Rex Hospital Open.
* NEXT EVENT: The Web.com Tour is idle next week before returning to action for the inaugural Puntacana Resort & Club Championship on June 2-5, 2016.