PUNTA CANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLICAN REPUBLICAN REPUBLICAN REPUBLI Ben Martin birdied six of the final eight holes on his way to a 6-under 66 and the first-round lead in the Corales Puntacana Championship on the PGA Tour on Thursday.
Martin started the run with birdies on the par-3 11th and par-5 12th holes, then added four more on the par-5 14th, par-4 15th and 16th holes, and par-3 17th.
“You want to take advantage of the par 5s and 15s on the back nine because finishing on 16, 17, and 18 is normally into the wind, and you really need to be in control of your golf ball,” Martin said. “So you feel like it’s a win if you can make a couple birdies coming in and just hold on and make a few pars.”
Martin, 34, has only played on the PGA Tour once this year, missing the cut in Puerto Rico earlier this month with rounds of 78 and 70. His lone PGA Tour victory came in 2014 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
After a bogey-free round at Corales Golf Course, Adam Schenk was a stroke back. He’s yet to win on the PGA Tour, and in his last nine starts, he’s missed seven cuts.
After a bogey-free 68, Graeme McDowell, the 2019 winner, was two shots back.
“Overall, I’m quite pleased with the start,” McDowell said. “I felt at ease on the golf course.” After my fifth visit, I’m starting to feel at ease down here in the fierce wind. I felt excellent on the greens, and everything seemed to be in fine working order, so I’m looking forward to going back to it in the morning.”
Hayden Buckley, Vaughn Taylor, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat were also at 68.
“The winds are fascinating,” Buckley observed. “I think there are a lot of holes where it really helps you out, and a lot of holes where you just have to suck it up and make a par,” says the player.
At the age of 69, David Lingmerth was a member of the group.
“It’s a very windy day out there,” Lingmerth commented. “We were teasing one other a little.” Obviously, the course is nothing like it, but it felt almost like playing in the British Open today. There were a lot of flighted photos, so I had to get creative.”
Joel Dahmen, the defending winner, started with a 71.
Nicolai Hojgaard of Denmark, the field’s highest-ranked player at No. 77 in the world, carded a 73 after a double bogey on No. 17. Rasmus, his twin brother, also shot 73.
The winner will be exempt into the PGA Championship but not the Masters because the tournament will be held concurrently with the WGC-Match Play event in Austin, Texas.
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