Peter Malnati scorches Port Royal to soar into early advantage
Peter Malnati holds a one-stroke lead over fellow Americans Doug Ghim and Ryan Armour after the opening round of the Bermuda Championships yesterday at Port Royal Golf Course.
The Knoxville, Tennessee native, who was one of the first starters off the 1st tee, set the bar with his eight-under-par 63 while Ghim and Armour are close behind on 64, as only three strokes separate the top 14 players.
Eleven others are on four under par, including three-times major winner Padraig Harrington, on a day of low scores as 79 of the 132 players finished under par yesterday. The top 65 plus ties will make the cut after today’s round.
Brendon Todd, the defending champion, was not one of them; however, he still remains in contention after shooting even par.
Bermuda’s Camiko Smith is also level par, but it could have been so much better had he not stumbled at the 8th, his seventeenth, where he took a double-bogey five to drop from joint 46th to joint 81st.
The 35-year-old, who won the local qualifying on his home course, made the best possible start in his PGA Tour debut, with birdies on his first two holes. But he surrendered that advantage before the turn and then made birdies at Nos 4 and 7 before coming a cropper at the par-three 8th.
Compatriots Michael Sims and Anthony Phipps both have work to do to have the remotest chance of making the 36-hole cut — projected to be three under.
Phipps is in a perilous position second bottom of the 132-man field after carding a 76, five over, while Sims finished in the last group in near darkness with 73.
The players will be in the same groupings today, with leader Malnati teeing off at 12.55pm from the 10th tee. Ghim will start his round at 1.25pm from the 10th while Armour heads out 8.05am from the 1st tee.
Phipps and Smith will leave at 8.55am and 9.05am from the 1st tee and Sims from the 10th at 9.15am.
“I got off to a good start, made the turn at even and then on the back nine I got a little sloppy,” said Phipps, who was playing in the group ahead of Smith.
“It sucks but I’ve got one more round tomorrow to see what I can do. It was a little windy coming in, and when I made the turn I thought that I was playing the easier nine, but that’s the nine that kicked my butt!
All three players were given loud applause when their names were mentioned on the starting tees within minutes of each other. “It was cool to see,” Phipps added. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Smith is disappointed not to have finished with a sub-par round, but remains upbeat going into today. “It’s my first PGA event, I finished even par, so I’ll take it,” he stated.
Smith started his round with birdies on 10 and 11 before shooting a bogey five and double bogey six on holes 14 and 15. He then had another birdie on 17 to be even par after nine holes.
“On 8, I should have stepped back and regrouped, but I didn’t. I hit a poor tee shot and made double. I’m not OK with it!”
Smith, who grew up on next door on Spring Benny Road, appreciated the support from the crowd. “A lot of them were family and friends,” said Smith, who birdied No 4, the hole he calls “home”.
He added: “That was nice. I had a few neighbours up on the hill clapping and cheering and my grandma was on the next hole once I got around the corner. That was pretty sweet, for her to be out and to see me compete in my first PGA event.
“I birdied 4 during the qualifiers, which was nice, and birdied it again today during my first PGA event … right in my neighbourhood.
“I’ll keep grinding and try to put something together tomorrow and try to make the cut. It’s not over yet. Like Kobe [Bryant] said, ʽthe job’s not done’.”
Malnati, 33, had a birdie-filled round of 63, his only blemish coming on the 17th, where he made bogey. But he instantly redressed the balance with birdie at the last to give the field something to shoot at.