Justin Hicks and Jeff Curl posted 6-under 65s Thursday and share the clubhouse lead in the weather-delayed first round of the Soboba Golf Classic on the Nationwide Tour. J.J. Killeen, Chris Kirk, Gary Woodland and Trevor Murphy all carded 5-under 66s and are one shot off the pace.
Thursday’s opener was halted at mid-morning when winds accelerated to 35 mph and forced a temporary stop of play about the same time a desert storm popped up and forced tournament officials to stop the action due to lightning in the area. Play was stopped at 10:30 a.m. and resumed at 12:50 p.m.
As a consequence, half the field failed to complete first-round play. The first round will resume at 7:30 Friday morning.
Alistair Presnell, who tied for second at last week’s WNB Golf Classic, is 5 under with one hole to go. Transplanted Texan B.J. Staten is also 5 under with three holes to play.
“I’ve never come across winds like that before,” said Hicks, who grew up in Michigan and now lives in Florida. “I’ve seen it on TV, but it was blowing so hard I figured they would stop because you couldn’t physically play the game.”
Hicks had finished only six holes when he was forced to the clubhouse. When he returned, the golf course hadn’t changed much despite some rain.
“The greens actually seemed to get faster,” he said. “They can get sneaky-quick at times. For whatever reason they don’t seem that fast but the ball just keeps going.”
Hicks ended the day hitting 16 greens in regulation but needed 31 putts to complete the day.
The former University of Michigan standout won the BMW Charity Pro-Am in May and comes into this week’s $1 million event with a chance to substantially improve his No. 19 position on the money list. The 25 leading money winners at the end of the year will earn a spot on the PGA Tour next year.
“I look at the year-long money list like a golf tournament,” he said. “You don’t set out to finish 25th in a tournament. I know how quickly things can change out here. Heck, last week I finished (tied for) 11th place and dropped from No. 18 to 19.”
Curl should have it so lucky. The 31-year old has made only four cuts in nine starts this year and comes into the week No. 144 on the money list. That didn’t stop him from making a day’s best nine birdies, including five in a row shortly after the delay.
“I hit it really close,” he said of his stretch. “I think I made five birdies and the longest putt was maybe four feet. I hit it really good today.”
First-Round Notes: This week’s field contains 59 of the top 60 money winners. The only player missing is Fran Quinn, who is No. 50 on the list thanks to a win at the Panama Claro Championship in February but has made only three starts all year and is out with an injury. … Leading money-winner Jamie Lovemark shot a 3-under 68. … Jim Herman closed his round with four consecutive birdies on the front nine to finish at 4-under 67.