WICHITA, Kan. – Alex Prugh eagled the par-5 18th hole at Crestview Country Club on Thursday for an 8-under 63 in the first round of the Air Capital Classic on the Web.com Tour.
Mike Lavery is alone in second after shooting a 6-under 65. Eric Axley, Jason Gore and Wichita State alum Dustin Garza are tied for third.
The conditions on Thursday were completely different than the practice rounds. With the wind coming from a different direction and not blowing as hard, it didn’t take long for Prugh to make the adjustment and take advantage of some streaky putting.
“The wind was a little weird,” he said. “We seemed to have a lot of crosswinds and we were getting a few gusts here and there. But I figured out early that it wasn’t enough wind to affect the ball a lot.”
Prugh was riding a hot putter as he came to the last hole tied for the lead with Lavery.
From the center of the fairway he pulled his approach shot, a 6-iron from 195 yards, to three feet right of the hole. He would make the eagle putt to take a two-stroke lead into Round 2.
The Washington native started the round shaky snap hooking his opening tee shot of the day. He would then hook his approach from the rough into a bunker 40 yards short of the pin. Prugh then “slashed” it to three feet to save par and believes that sequence of shots to start his round was exactly what he needed.
“Sometimes those hard pars are just as good as birdies,” he said. “It’s the start of the week, you need to get off to a good start, and fortunately I did.”
Prugh, who is currently No. 24 on the money list, placed a new putter in the bag this week. He praised his Ping Nome Scottsdale TR for helping him line up better and get a truer roll on the ball. He would record 25 putts for the round including a 30-foot bomb on No. 6 for birdie. Prugh believes that putt led to an increase in confidence with the flat stick the remainder of the round.
Lavery hit just 13 greens in Round 1. He put in work on his short game early in the week, hitting different shots from various lies and credits that preparation for his comfort around the greens.
“I did a lot of practice chipping out of that rough and it really paid off,” he said. “Every time I hit it in there, I hit a pretty good shot and got it up and down.”
The California native is playing this year on a Major Medical exemption after hurting his left wrist last year and taking time to rest it per doctor’s orders. Lavery has fully recovered and came into this week with a little momentum after tying for 15th at the Mid-Atlantic Championship a couple of weeks ago.
With three rounds still to play, the 32-year-old pro knows he must continue his good play and like his chances this week in Wichita.
“Based on year’s past, you need to keep it going out here,” he said. “If the wind stays up and I keep playing the way I’m playing, I’ll be in good shape.”
--This week’s purse is $650,000 with $117,000 going to the champion.
--Alex Prugh’s 63 marks the second year in a row that a player has recorded 8 under in the opening round. In 2012, Casey Wittenberg fired a 63 en route to his second victory of the season.
--Jason Gore’s 66 was his first bogey-free round of the year. This is his eighth start in Wichita with his best finish, a tie for 15th, coming in 2012. He has been working with Mac O’Grady the last seven weeks and is really excited about the progress the two have made with his swing.
“Just to see positive things makes me feel like I’m winning,” he said. “It’s fun to have something to work on and start playing a little better.”
When asked about what specifically he is working on, Gore joked, “getting the wobbles out.”
--Eric Axley started his round with bogeys on No. 1 and No. 6 before a birdie on No. 8 and a back-nine 30 in which he birdied four holes in a row. He got off to a slow start but stayed patient and hung in there until things started to pick up on his second nine.
“I kept telling my caddie I feel like I’m playing good,” he said. “I was hitting some good putts they just weren’t going in. And then they started going in and I really got it going on the back nine.”
--The Web.com Tour will be in Raleigh, N.C., next week for the Rex Hospital Open at TPC Wakefield Plantation.