Matt Davidson hasn’t had a lot of playing opportunities on the 2010 Nationwide Tour, so Thursday at the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open he took full advantage. Hitting all 14 fairways at Crestview Country Club -- he was one of only two players to do that -- Davidson took the first-round lead after a bogey-free, 8-under 63 in what is only his sixth Nationwide Tour event of 2010. He is sleeping on the lead for the first time in his Tour career.
“I’m not overly long off the tee, but this course is not wide open. So any course that rewards accuracy over length is good for me,” said the 5-foot-9 Davidson. “Obviously it was a good round. I drove the ball really well today.”
Right behind Davidson are Steven Bowditch, Dan Buchner, Roberto Castro and Scott Gutschewski, who all put together 7-under 64s to tie for second.
Davidson, who earned conditional Nationwide Tour status this season as the 68th qualifier from the 2009 PGA Tour Q-School, has had five Tour starts in 2010, with all of them coming since mid-June. His top showing is a tie for seventh in Arkansas after he opened with a 6-under 64 at the Fort Smith Classic. Davidson has also played on the eGolf Professional Tour, enjoying three top-10 performances this year, with his top finish coming at a Charlotte (NC) event, where he finished third.
“I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable. It helps to have a couple of decent results,” said Davidson, who played collegiately at Furman.
Buchner is also seeing some improvement, trying to come back from Lasik surgery earlier in the season and recent a slump that left him unhappy with the state of his game. After electing not to not play the Cox Classic last week, Buchner returned to his home in Seal Beach, Calif., to practice and work with his instructor.
“It was a tough decision taking last week off. It’s the first time I’ve ever been in a Nationwide Tour event and chosen not to play,” Buchner said. “I was second-guessing my decision for a while. But I felt like I needed to get home and work on my game and sort of break up the routine. So far it’s paid off.”
After playing in glasses his whole career, Buchner had his eye surgery in late March. He attributes some of his poor play to the vision adjustments he had to make. He only goes so far with that, though. “For the last six weeks, I have no excuses as far as my vision. I hit so many bad shots and putts that it just shook my confidence,” he said.
There weren’t many bad shots Thursday. Buchner had eight birdies and only one bogey, which came on his finishing hole when he had to chip out after his drive landed behind a tree. He also made a 60-foot birdie putt on No. 12 and had a 20-foot chip in birdie on No. 16. “When that [chip] went in, I just started laughing. It was a lot of fun today,” he said.
Gutschewski, meanwhile, kept his solid play going after shooting four sub-70 rounds last week at the Cox Classic, where he tied for seventh in his hometown. It was his fourth top-10 finish of 2010, and he’s 19th on the money list.
“I think this is my fifth time playing [in Wichita]. It was a good round. A good start,” said Gutschewski, who stayed in Omaha until Tuesday so he could be with his sick grandmother, who passed away that day. “It’s a tough time, but I’ll be able to be at her funeral Monday.”
Tjaart van der Walt, David Hearn, Brandt Jobe and Jhonattan Vegas, are tied for fifth. Vegas was the 18-, 36- and 54-hole leader here a year ago before tying for fourth.
First-Round Notes: There were 19 bogey-free rounds, led by leader Matt Davidson. The others came from Oskar Bergman, Steven Bowditch, Greg Bray, Roberto Castro, Paul Claxton, Scott Gutschewski, James Hahn, Chris Kirk, Kevin Kisner, David McKenzie, Zack Miller, David Morland IV, Chris Nallen, Leif Olson, Jason Schultz, Justin Smith, Andrew Svoboda and Tjaart van der Walt. … Gutschewski has played 15 rounds at the Wichita Open, and 14 of those rounds have been under par. His only blemish was a second-round 74 in 2004 when he missed the cut. Ironically, that season, Gutschewski began the tournament by making five birdies in his first six holes. Gutschewski was 7 under Thursday.
Dan Buchner’s 7-under 64 is a career-low on the Nationwide Tour, bettering the 65 he shot in the second round of the 2006 Mark Christopher Charity Classic. Buchner had a final-round 66 at Crestview Country Club in 2006 to tie for 21st. … Paul Claxton had his fifth consecutive sub-70 round after enjoying five rounds in the 60s last week at the Cox Classic. Claxton eagled the 18th hole Thursday to finish at 5-under 66. He shot rounds of 69-66-62-69 in Omaha. … Pat Bates made his first Nationwide Tour start since the 2007 Miccosukee Championship. He shot a 7-over 78 Thursday. This week marks the five-time Nationwide Tour winner’s 208th career start.
The longest first-round birdie streak was four, by two players. Dan Buchner made birdies on the final three holes of the back nine and continued his streak to No. 1. Josh Broadaway birdied holes 13 through 16. … There were 19 eagles Thursday, but only one came on a par 4. Oskar Bergman made his approach on the par-4 seventh from 176 yards. He used a 7-iron into a crosswind. He had the eagle, a birdie (No. 11) and 16 pars on his way to a 3-under 68. … Dan Buchner entered this tournament 123rd in Putts Per Round on the Nationwide Tour, averaging 30.65 per 18 holes. Thursday, he had 24 putts, second only to Nick Beach’s 22. … William McGirt withdrew during his round Thursday. He had a back injury.