Steven Bowditch hadn’t been in the interview room after a round to talk with the media in quite a while. Kyle Thompson has been in plenty of interview rooms over the years but had no idea where it was located at the Cox Classic despite playing in the tournament six times. Bowditch and Thompson know where the media in Omaha hang out now, courtesy of 8-under par 63s that have them sharing the first-round lead in the Nationwide Tour event.
Bowditch matched his career-low score by closing with five birdies in his final six holes at the Champions Run course. Thompson, who played in the afternoon and started on the back nine, also birdied five of his final six to grab a share of the lead.
“I never thought this course was that easy and every year guys are shooting 59s and 60s and here I am shooting 2 or 3 under and feeling like I played okay,” said Thompson, who is making his seventh start in Omaha. “It’s just fun again. I’ve struggled on this course in the past so to play like this today was a lot of fun.”
Thompson may have turned the corner on his game by learning how to the turn the ball over. After fading the ball for most of his career, the former South Carolina standout recently started working to incorporate a draw into his resume.
“I’ve noticed that since I started drawing the ball so many tee shots set up great for a draw,” said Thompson, who added the right-to-left shot about six weeks ago. “In the past I faded it and sometimes the fade would turn to a slice. Now I’m hitting a little bit of both.”
Bowditch used nine birdies to burst onto the leaderboard, a place where he has almost been non-existent since winning the 2005 Jacob’s Creek Open Championship, his second career start on Tour.
“I wouldn’t use the word frustrating at all,” he said of his struggles. “It’s more of a learning curve for me. It’s nice to be hitting the ball where you’re looking, most of the time.”
Bowditch has been working hard to regain the form that sent him to the PGA Tour for his rookie season in 2006. The Australia native has slowly been rounding his game into shape and his tie for 17th at last week’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational was his best in nine starts this year.
“Absolutely,” said Bowditch about a possible carryover effect. “To be honest, I played the best I’ve played in the last four or five years last week, I just couldn’t get the putts in. It wasn’t so much about making the putts, but I was missing the momentum putts as well.”
Bowditch made a bundle of putts on Thursday, finishing with only 24. His 8-under score was four better than his lowest of the season.
“Mentally, I’m a much better golfer. Patience on the golf course has always been my downfall. It just comes with experience,” said the 27-year-old how has been a pro for nine years. “When it comes to the physical side of golf, length-wise and scoring-wise I don’t think I’m quite where I used to be back when I came out here in ’05. There have been some mechanical issues that snuck in there and I’m just starting to get back.”
Kevin Chappell, winner of the Fresh Express Classic at TPC Stonebrae and No. 4 on the money list, heads a trio of players in at 7-under 64. Chappell is joined by Australia’s Scott Gardiner and Monday qualifier Matt Marshall, who is making his debut on Tour.
Six other golfers are in at 6-under 65, including Chris Kirk, who is No. 3 on the money list.
First-Round Notes: Steven Bowditch matched his career-low score with a 63. He also posted a 63 in the final round of the 2005 ING New Zealand PGA Championship and forced a playoff with Peter O’Malley, who eventually beat Bowditch for the title. … Bowditch has been atop the first-round leaderboard twice before in his Nationwide Tour career. He shared the 18-hole lead at the 2005 Jacob’s Creek Open Championship, which he went on to win. One week later, he held the outright lead after the opening day at the ING New Zealand PGA Championship, where he lost in a playoff to Peter O’Malley.
Hunter Haas matched his lowest round in this tournament with a 6-under 65. Haas also shot a 65 in the second round in 2004. He is playing at Champions Run for the seventh consecutive year and has made the cut in 5 of his previous 6 starts. … Matt Marshall, a 2009 graduate of UC-Davis, gained entry into this event after shooting a 65 in the Monday qualifier at Tiburon Golf Club in Omaha. Marshall is making is first career start on the Nationwide Tour. He has never competed in a PGA Tour event. The 25-year-old Arizona native played on the Canadian Tour last year and this year. In 2010, Marshall has made the cut in 4 of 6 starts, with his best finish a tie for fifth at the ATB Financial Classic in Edmonton, which was won by Nationwide Tour member Dustin Risdon.
Leading money winner Jamie Lovemark fired a 1-over par 72, ending his streak of sub-par scores in the first round. Lovemark hadn’t carded an over-par score on the first day since a 77 in the opening round of the Stadion Athens Classic on April 29. The former USC All-America has been on a hot streak of late – today was only the third over-par score he has posted in his last 28 rounds, and all three of those scores were 72s. In those eight tournaments, he is a cumulative 64 under par. Lovemark had two double bogeys and a bogey in his first 10 holes but was at even-par thanks to five birdies. He bogeyed No. 11 and then made 8 pars to finish his day.
Last week’s tournament winner, D.J. Brigman posted a 1-over par 72. … The par-4 ninth hole, which measures 315 yards, played as the third-easiest hole. The hole had a scoring average of 3.590 but yielded only two eagles (Garrett Osborn, William McGirt). The hole has ranked as the easiest par 4 on the Nationwide Tour each of the last four years. … Former Florida All-America Billy Horschel fired a 1-over par 72 in his first competitive round since the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in mid-February. Horschel, a rookie on the PGA Tour, underwent wrist surgery in March. … The scoring average for the par-71 course was 69.353.