A week after making his first cut on the PGA Tour, American Cole Hammer shot an eight-under-par 64 to grab the first-round lead at the RSM Classic on Thursday.
The 23-year-old joined the Korn Ferry Tour this season after an impressive college career at the University of Texas but has struggled in PGA Tour events.
After failing to make the cut in Tour tournaments in the past two seasons, he finally ended that streak at the Houston Open last week where he finished T27.
Judging from his play on Thursday, at a chilly Sea Island Golf Club in Georgia, that result was clearly liberating.
“I needed to get that monkey off my back. To do that at my hometown event in Houston, was huge for me. I was telling my parents, but the first tee in Houston was like the most nervous I’ve ever been, just with the hometown crowd,” he said.
“I told myself I’ll never be that nervous again. I just got comfortable after that and saw myself shoot a good round on Tour and now I believe that I can do it,” he said.
Starting on the back nine, Hammer made four birdies at the turn and then made three more in the next four holes but ended with a bogey on his penultimate hole, the 8th.
Hammer said he was finally able to play with calmness on the ‘big tour’ having discovered the necessity of patience.
“I basically just told myself that I can come back [from bogeys] and nobody plays perfect golf and that’s what I was trying to do. I felt like on the PGA Tour you have to play perfect golf, but that’s just not the case.
“Obviously I played almost perfect golf today, so it’s easy to say that after shooting a really good round, but I think that just takes pressure off,” he added.
Ben Griffin was a stroke behind after his bogey-free round of 65 and England’s Callum Tarren was one of three players, two shots off the lead.
Tarren said it was tough to deal with the conditions.
“I had some huge mitts on, hand warmers, three layers. We actually had a 20-minute wait on hole 3, so all three of us said how cold it just got, but we were just standing around.
“You’ve just got to try to keep as warm as you possibly can and just try to get it in play,” he said.
South Africa’s Dean Burmester shot a first-round 66 that included five birdies and a bogey.
© Agence France-Presse