The golf adage about drive for show and putt for dough was the order of the day at the Chitimacha Louisiana Open on the Nationwide Tour on Thursday, as Will MacKenzie and Brenden Pappas fired 8-under 63s to share the first-round lead.
MacKenzie had a pair of eagles at the Le Triomphe Country Club, including a hole-out on his final shot of the afternoon for his round of 63. Pappas, who owns the course record with a 60 in 2007, rolled in putts from all corners and made nine birdies to tie for the lead.
Two-time and defending champion Brett Wetterich birdied three of his final four holes for a 7-under 64 and solo third.
Stephen Gangluff, Rob Oppenheim, Chris Riley, Brad Adamonis and Gene Sauers share fourth place at 6-under 65 while six others are jammed together with 66s.
Heavy rains on Wednesday dumped more than two inches of water on an already-soaked golf course and forced officials to implement lift, clean and place conditions. As a result, 112 players in the field of 144 shot par-or-better scores.
There is money to be made on the greens, where Pappas and Wetterich needed only 24 putts to complete their day while MacKenzie had just 25.
"I might have been lucky to make the turn at 1 under, actually," said MacKenzie. "I was not hitting it very well but putting really well. I had the speed of the greens down. That's been the missing link for me typically."
MacKenzie turned the tables on his round when he turned the corner on the course. After starting on the back nine, birdies at Nos. 1 and 2 put him at 3 under, but it was a 3-wood from 260 yards at the par-5 fifth hole that did the trick. His ball stopped less than 10 feet from the hole and canned the eagle putt to jump to the early lead at minus-5.
After another birdie at No. 6, MacKenzie kept his putter in the bag at the dogleg-left, 441-yard ninth hole.
"I never really play that hole well. I just don't know my line off the tee and I'm not a strong enough hitter to get over those bunkers on the left," he said. "I played it out to the fat part of the fairway and had 185 yards. My caddie said it was a perfect 7-iron, a little downwind. I hammered it right at it."
Two bounces and the ball found the cup for an eagle-2.
"There was one guy behind the green who gave me the high sign that it went it," said MacKenzie. "It was fun."
Regardless of how much fun MacKenzie had, Pappas had more.
The 41-year-old South African, normally a good putter, turned into a great putter, holing five putts in the 35- to 45-foot range and adding a pair from 18 to 20 feet.
"In my estimation I made about 270 feet worth of putts today," he said. "I hit the ball well enough to shoot 1 or 2 under, maybe. I drove it good but my irons were terrible."
Pappas rolled in short birdies, long birdies and some sizeable pars to gain a share of the lead.
"The single-best putting day I've ever had," he said. "By far. Ever. Second is far distant compared to this. Even the putts I missed from 20 feet were good putts. You do things that are pretty amazing and everybody in the group is watching. It was fun to watch, even for me to watch them go in. I was just laughing after a while."
Pappas' only miss was a 20-footer for par at No. 8 -- otherwise he would have been perfect.
"Walking down 18 I was thinking about my ball-striking because I made all these putts and my ball-striking wasn't all that great," said Pappas, who missed four fairways and five greens on the day. "I'm thinking I need to go practice because you can't rely on putting like that all the time. It's just a fluke. Every putt I had over 30 was right in the jar."
--Lift, clean and place conditions were in effect for the first round and will be used for the second round as well.
--Brenden Pappas owns the course record -- an 11-under 60 in the opening round in 2007. Three other players have carded 11-under scores but those were all 61s. David Lebeck did it in 2001, Mike Heinen did it in 2002 and Wes Short did it in 2003. The course underwent a redesign in 2003 with movement of bunkers and tees and the par-72 was eventually changed to a par-71 for the 2006 tournament.
--There were only three birdies at the 485-yard 14th hole on Thursday -- Joseph Bramlett, Duffy Waldorf and Jonas Blixt. The hole was the most difficult during the opening round and played to an average of 4.361.
--The Nationwide Tour will take next week off before heading to California for two consecutive weeks. The next stop will be in San Jacinto, Calif. (near Palm Springs) for the Soboba Golf Classic at The Country Club at Soboba Springs April 2-8.