It’s a tightly-contested field after one day of play at the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn.
Bob Tway birdied the 18th hole of Friday’s first round to take a one stroke lead over five other players. Among those in second place are Mike Goodes, Tommy Armour III, Joe Ozaki and Mike Wiebe. Each holed a round of 8-under-par.
Tway’s first round included six birdies on holes 7-13, which put him in a tie for the lead. A birdie on No. 13 gave him the outright lead for the first time, but he surrendered the lead when he bogeyed on No. 14.
A birdie on his last hole of round one gave him the lead for good heading into the second day of play.
“Last year, I played well in the last round,” said Tway, who shot a final round 64 to finish fourth in last year’s event at Rock Barn. “Some courses just fit your eye better than others. This course is extremely different than in the fall. Right now, the ball is going forever and it stops right where you hit it.”
Goodes, a two-time North Carolina state amateur champion from Reidsville, shot a career-best round in the Champions Tour.
His front nine score of 28 is a record for the Greater Hickory Classic and one off of the all-time mark in Champions Tour history. The previous low for nine holes at Rock Barn was by R.W. Eaks in 2008.
Goodes attributes his performance to some critical play in individual parts of his golf game.
“I’m hitting the ball more consistent and have been driving the ball really nice,” Goodes said. “My distance control in my irons has been better in the last couple of weeks. I’ve had shorter birdie putts instead of being 20-feet short or long of the hole. I’ve been getting closer the last couple of weeks. I’ve been putting the ball better. I’ve been working with Nick Price for a few months. I’m still working on putting. I’m making the putts that I’m supposed to make. That helps a lot.”
Among the groups that teed off earlier in the day, two golfers pulled out to an early lead. Armour and Roger Chapman each were 4-under-par through eight holes.
Reidsville native and UNC-Chapel Hill grad Goodes birdied eight of his first nine holes of play to take the lead. The only hole he did not birdie was the par-3 third hole, which he parred.
“The front nine was fun,” Goodes said. “I’d love to play the same way on the back nine. I hit the ball really good on the front and made all of my putts. It was kind of a dream round.”
Ozaki also had an impressive round, mostly with his putter. He birdied five straight holes from No. 6 to No. 10 to join Goodes on top of the leaderboard at 5-under-par. However, his string of birdies ended with a bogey at No. 11.
Chapman moved down the leaderboard into a tie for 11th with a double bogey on No. 13. He finished the day 4-under-par.
After making par on holes 9-12, Armour nipped at the heels of Goodes and moved up to second-place with birdies on No. 13, 14 and 15.
Armour, who has played one event at Rock Barn — last fall’s Ensure Classic — finished at 8-under-par, which is good enough for a tie for second place. He said his first round play was the product of some adjustments in the way he has been hitting the ball.
“From the middle of last year until about three weeks ago, I had been hitting the ball badly,” Armour said. “I was hitting a lot of fat shots with some hook on them. I couldn’t figure out why. I went and saw a couple of people about it. I came up with a few ideas and it is working better for me. I am hitting the ball better.”
Just like the run he made during holes 6-10, Ozaki birdied holes 14-17 to shoot 8-under-par and join Armour and Goodes as co-leaders at the moment.
A birdie on hole 14 though broke up the three-way tie and gave Goodes sole possession of the lead. However, a bogey on No. 16 two holes later tied the three golfers yet again at 8-under.
A run of four birdies on the back nine carried Wiebe into a share of the lead at 8-under-par.
However, Tway finished strong, using the run of birdies in the middle of his round and a final birdie on No. 18 to give him the lead after the first day.
Mark Calcavecchia, who is 11th in the Charles Schwab Cup standings, is in a tie for sixth-place with Mark O’Meara and David Eger. All four golfers shot 7-under-par.
Tway said solid play throughout the tournament will be required if someone wants to claim this year’s GHC title.
“You’d better be in the 20s if you want to win,” Tway said. “So you better keep shooting low.”