On a day better suited for just about anything but golf, second-year professional Ben Martin battled through the wind and rain to put himself atop the leaderboard in the first round of the weather-delayed TPC Stonebrae Championship on the Nationwide Tour. Martin missed only one fairway and two greens in a nearly flawless effort that produced a 5-under 65 and temporary possession of the lead.
Cross-handed Josh Broadaway, Michael Putnam and Brian Stuard all finished up their early rounds at 4-under 66 and currently share second place.
TPC Stonebrae is hosting this event for the fourth year in a row, and former San Francisco 49ers great Jerry Rice is serving as tournament host for the third straight year.
Colombia’s Camilo Benedetti is tied with veteran Duffy Waldorf and Alex Aragon for fifth place at 3 under par.
Temperatures never got above 50 degrees and the winds were pushing 15-20 mph most of the day. Throw in some rain and you’ve got a pretty good formula for staying at home.
“To be honest, I’d rather not be playing in this,” said Benedetti. “I’m glad it wasn’t raining because if it was, it would be miserable.”
Morning fog delayed the start of play by two hours and ultimately kept 78 players in the field of 156 from completing their rounds. That group will resume play at 8:00 Friday morning.
“I think we caught a break with the weather and our tee time,” said Martin. “You keep it on the fairway and hit it on the green and it makes it a lot easier. That was the plan today.”
Martin rolled in several short putts to put his name at the top, someplace he hasn’t seen much this season. The former Clemson All-America has made only one cut in five starts.
“I haven’t been putting up the scores, but I felt like I’ve been improving every week so I felt confident coming in here,” said Martin, who tied for 47th at the Chile Classic but has missed his last two cuts. “The driver was good and my course management was great. It’s probably the best it’s been all year.”
Martin’s 65 is his best score of the year and only the second time in six starts that he’s broken par in the first round.
“There is definitely some frustration there but if you get frustrated in this game it’s going to be a long year,” he said.
It was a long day and could have been longer but the word of the day for the leaders was simple -- patience.
“It’s going to be cold. It’s going to be wet. It’s going to be windy,” said Broadaway. “I’m sure before a lot of guys teed off they were thinking the weather was going to stink and it wasn’t going to be any fun. All that takes is one bad shot and they’re pretty much done.”
Broadaway putted well, cashing in birdie putts ranging from 45 feet to 8 inches, but noted it was the mental part of the game that was the most difficult on Thursday.
“It wasn’t easy out there. We knew these first two days were going to be brutal, so I just made up my mind on Tuesday that it was going to be a tough week,” he said. “You just have to fight. That’s what today is all about. I guarantee if you ask the other guys that play well, they’ll tell you they just fought all day.”
Stuard, who finished up his round getting pelted by a tough rain, agreed.
“No. 18 was just brutal with the sleet or whatever that was. I don’t know what it was but it felt harder than rain, I’ll say that,” he quipped. “I think the hardest thing today was staying patient. You know you’re doing to hit some bad shots. You know you’re going to get some that bounce the wrong way. You keep the right mindset, you’re going to make some good things happen.”
The day ended at 6:52 p.m. when more rain and dangerous conditions moved into the East Bay.
Of those on the course, Bryan DeCorso is at 3 under after nine holes. Michael Connell is 2 under after 11 holes and Jin Park is 2 under after nine.
--Lift, clean and place conditions were in effect. This is the third time this year (in six events) that preferred lies were used: Rounds 1 and 2 of the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship and the Chitimacha Louisiana Open.
--Ben Martin has missed the cut in four of his five Nationwide Tour starts this year. His only paycheck came thanks to a tie for 47th finish at the Chile Classic. Martin was a rookie on the PGA Tour last year and made only 12 cuts in 25 starts. His only top-10 was a tie for sixth at the Reno-Tahoe Classic and he wound up No. 164 on the money list.
--Martin has held/shared the lead only once before in his PGA Tour career. He fired a 4-under 67 in the opening round of the 2011 Northern Trust Open and was part of a Tour-record nine-way tie at the top. Unfortunately, he posted a 9-over 80 in the second round and missed the 36-hole cut.
--Monday qualifier Michael Weaver, a redshirt junior at California, fired a 2-over-par 72 in his Nationwide Tour debut. Weaver, who had his father caddying for him, hit 8 of 13 fairways, 12 of 18 greens and had 33 putts. His scorecard included two birdies and four bogeys. Weaver is pursuing admission into Cal’s Haas School of Business after two strong seasons to begin his college career in Berkeley. He played in 22 events his first two years and had a stroke average of 72.5. He tied for eighth at the 2011 NCAA Championship, the highest finish ever for an individual Cal player at NCAAs.
--Tom Hoge shot a 2-under 68. He started on the back nine and made the turn at 4 over after a double bogey at No. 18. Hoge (pronounced Hoagie) rallied with a 6-under 29 on the front, using only 10 putts in the process.
--Tournament Host and NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice is 8 over par after eight holes on the back nine. Rice has three bogeys, a double bogey and a triple bogey on his card thus far. Rice is making his third career start in this event. He missed the cut each of the past two years.
--Steve Elkington received a sponsor exemption this week and making his Nationwide Tour debut after 566 career starts on the PGA Tour. Elkington, who includes the 1995 PGA Championship among his 10 PGA Tour titles, opened with a birdie on the first hole but stands at 7 over after 14 holes.