CANONSBURG, Pa. – Zack Sucher fired a 6-under 65 Thursday and took a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Mylan Classic in suburban Pittsburgh. Sucher chalked up eight birdies at the Southpointe Golf Club and moved into first place for the first time in his brief Web.com Tour career.
Sucher leads by one over hometown favorite Steve Wheatcroft, Guy Boros, Billy Hurley, Chad Collins, Ben Martin and Whee Kim.
Four others – Cliff Kresge, Franklin Corpening, Blayne Barber and Dustin Garza – are in at 67 and two shots back.
“I drove it well and if you drive it in the fairway you can make some birdies,” said the leader. “It could have been a few better, but it was pretty stress-free.”
The same can’t be said for Sucher’s 2013 season. The 26-year-old from Mobile, Ala., has no status on any tour and is making only his third start of the year. Sucher tied for second at the South Georgia Classic in late April, but then missed the cut the following week and has been unsuccessful in several Monday attempts since.
“I’ve been fighting to get some starts,” he said. “I’ve been traveling all over the country trying to get in. Mondays are tough. You’re never sure what you’re going to get and a lot of times you have to shoot 66 or better just to make it.”
Sucher came within an eyelash in Valdosta of becoming a special temporary member on tour, but late birdies by D.J. Brigman and Michael Putnam created a three-way tie for second and caused a big enough money split to keep him on the outside looking in.
He collected $48,533 but he needed $54,799 – the equivalent of No. 100 on the 2012 money list – to gain membership. He missed the cut the following week at the Stadion Classic at UGA and has been criss-crossing the country since.
“I thought I’d play well in Athens and then I’d be fine,” he said. “I felt like I played better than my scores were showing. For the last month now I’ve felt like I’m hitting the ball really well but the putter has been a little iffy.”
While Sucher entered the week at No. 79 on the money list and below everyone’s radar, Wheatcroft is under the biggest spotlight of anyone.
The 35-year-old went to nearby Trinity High School and grew in Washington, Pa., about seven miles down the road. One of his first jobs was in the bag room at Southpointe and he admits he’s played hundreds of rounds at the course.
“Obviously the first year I probably had my biggest advantage when everyone else was still trying to figure out how to play it,” said Wheatcroft, who tied for third in 2010. “I was leaking oil coming in but I made a good putt for birdie at nine and that was very gratifying.”
Wheatcroft’s gallery was only two when he teed off at 7:21 a.m., but it had grown to about 25 family and friends by the time he finished.
--Sucher is making only his third start of the year. The 26-year-old was a Monday qualifier at South Georgia in late April, then fired a final-round 65 to vault into a tie for second place. He started the last round a distant 12 strokes off the pace set by eventual winner Will Wilcox and wound up only four shots back.
--Sucher started the week 79th on the money list despite making only one cut in two starts. Sucher needs to finish in the top 75 by the end of the Cox Classic in order to qualify for the Web.com Tour finals.
--Steve Wheatcroft has played in each of the first four events at Southpointe. He tied for third in the tournament’s inaugural season (2010) and then tied for 66th in 2011 and tied for 47th last year. His best round to date was a 65 in the second round in 2009.
--Wheatcroft started the week No. 44 on the money list. He has made nine cuts in 14 starts. His best finishes were a tie for fourth at the Air Capital Classic and a tie for seventh at the Colombia Championship.
--In two previous starts in this event, Guy Boros missed the cut (2011) and tied for 47th (2012). He entered the week No. 62 on the money list. Boros has made the cut in seven of 16 starts this season and has a pair of top-10s to his credit – a tie for fourth at the Chile Classic and a tie for ninth at the Rex Hospital Open.
--Chad Collins has made the cut in half of his 16 starts this year. He tied for third twice – at the Mid-Atlantic Championship and Utah Championship. He began week at No. 34 on the money list. Collins missed the cut here last year, his only previous start at Southpointe.
--Cliff Kresge (67) is making his fourth start in this event. He finished tied for 32nd in 2010, tied for 50th in 2011 and tied for second last year, when he held a one-stroke lead after 54 holes.
--James Nitties posted a 2-under 69 that included a triple-bogey 8 at the par-5 11th hole.
--Leading money winner Michael Putnam’s 75 matched his highest score this year. Putnam had posted par-or-better scores in 42of his previous 57 rounds this year. He carded a 75 in the final round of the Chile Classic in mid-March. Putnam fired a 63 in the final round of last week’s Albertson’s Boise Open to finish 22-under and tie for third. He is tied for 116th.
--Kevin Tway, playoff winner of last week’s Albertson Boise Open, birdied his final two holes Thursday morning for a 2-over 73 and is tied for 77th.
--Bhavik Patel (76) withdrew after the opening round. Todd Baek withdrew during the round due to an injury.
--The Southpointe course record is 62, first set by Brad Adamonis in the second round in 2011 and matched later that day by 2010 champion Kevin Kisner. Danny Lee also tied the mark in the fourth round that year.
--The Web.com Tour returns to Springfield, Mo., for next week’s Price Cutter Charity Championship. The tournament is one of four original events that remain from the tour’s inaugural season in 1990. The 24th edition will once again be contested at the Highland Springs Country Club.