Mark Anderson is going to need more tickets. The South Carolina native shot a 6-under-par 66 Thursday to take the first-round lead in the Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island, about 60 miles from his home in Beaufort.
“I had about six or seven family and friends following me today but I anticipate it getting bigger throughout the week,” he said of his vocal contingent. “I’ve had a lot of requests for tickets so I’m scrounging around for those.”
NATIONWIDE TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP
The top 25 players on the money list on Sunday night will earn their PGA Tour cards for 2012.
Anderson holds the lead over Camilo Benedetti of Colombia and a pair of two-time winners this year, Jason Kokrak and Ted Potter Jr.
Roger Tambellini, the last man to qualify for the field of 60, heads a group of five players two shots off the pace. Tambellini is joined at 68 by Darron Stiles, Roberto Castro, Steve Wheatcroft and another South Carolina resident, Kyle Thompson of Greenville.
Anderson entered the 2011 Nationwide Tour season finale No. 19 on the money list – the top 25 after this week will move onto the PGA Tour in 2012.
“They try to talk about it,” he said of the constant calculations. “I don’t really talk about it. They ask what I need to finish and I just tell them I’m trying to play as good as I can this week and try to win the thing, just like I do every week. I’m not thinking about the details of who needs to finish where.”
Anderson has pocketed $182,017 in his 24 starts this year, or $17 more than first place is worth on Sunday -- and a win would send him to the Tour for the first time.
The former USC Gamecock has finished second and tied for second in the past two weeks, thanks largely to a late-season switch to a belly putter.
“It’s been rolling really good and I’ve made a lot of putts,” he said after needing only 21 putts in his round. “I’m making those short ones you need to make, those 5-footers.”
Anderson got off to a rocky start and managed to save par five times in the first seven holes.
“My short game kept me in it the first six or seven holes,” he said. “After that, I got into a good flow.”
Anderson rolled in a couple of short birdies, made a 30-footer, a 40-footer and chipped in on successive holes to give him six birdies in a seven-hole stretch.
Benedetti put together a solid, all-around day and moved into contention.
“I played great and I putted very well,” said Benedetti, No. 49 on the money list. “You want to make it to the top-25, which means I have to win or finish second I guess. This is my first time here and I’m happy where I’m at. I know I’m playing well so I can make it happen.”
--This week’s purse is $1 million with the winner collecting $180,000 at the conclusion of play on Sunday. The last-place finisher (No. 60) will collect $3,000. J.J. Killeen entered the week No. 1 on the money list with $409,473. There are only 10 other players who could mathematically unseat Killeen from the top spot, and two of those would have to win while Killeen would have to finish last for that scenario to come true.
--Leading money-winner J.J. Killeen three-putted twice in his first five holes and was 5 over par through the first 10 holes. Killeen settled down with three birdies, including his final two holes, and shot a 2-over 74. He is tied for 51st heading into Friday’s second round.
With the top 25 players moving on to the PGA Tour next year, few of the “bubble boys” fared well in the opening round. No. 20 Martin Flores shot a 72 and is tied for 30th; No. 21 Scott Brown shot a 75 and is tied for 55th; No. 22 Roberto Castro fired a 68 and is tied for fourth; No. 23 James Nitties shot a 73 and is tied for 45th; No. 24 Daniel Chopra had a 72 and is tied for 30th; and No. 25 Billy Hurley III also had a 72 and is tied for 30th.
No. 26 Brett Wetterich had a 71 and is tied for 20th; No. 27 Josh Broadaway had a 72 and is tied for 30th; No. 28 Tommy Biershenk had a 70 and is tied for 20; No. 29 29 Marco Dawson had a 75 and is tied for 55th; and No. 30 Darron Stiles fired a 68 and is tied for fourth.