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Alex Noren equals record to grab early lead in Butterfield Bermuda Championship

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Alex Noren equalled the tournament record with a ten-under 61 on the opening day of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Course yesterday

Alex Noren ruthlessly exploited the benign conditions on offer at Port Royal Golf Course yesterday to grasp early control of the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.

The Swede was a model of consistency on the way to equalling the tournament and course record of ten-under 61 to give him a two-shot advantage over the rest of the field heading into day two

Noren’s lowest score on the PGA Tour also featured a tournament-record 11 birdies, including six on the back nine, with the stunning water views providing a fitting backdrop to his explouts.

“It was great to get a ten-under,” Noren said. “It was a long time ago that I had like a really low round, you know, lower than maybe five, six under, so I feel good.”

The 41-year-old appears to be reaping the reward for the hard work he has put into his game lately as he hit 16 greens in regulation, nine of 14 fairways and was equally as clinical with the putter.

“It was quite easy conditions and there's a lot of wedges out there, but I improved the wedges a lot coming from Japan where I struggled with them, so I'm very, very happy,” Noren added.

“I Worked quite hard over the last two weeks at home as well and working on things that me and my coach [Matt Belsham] have worked on to just try to get a bit more fade bias. I tend to hit more greens like that.”

Americans Vince Whaley, Robert Garrigus, Dylan Wu and DJ Trahan are in a four-way tie for second at eight under.

“It was nothing too fantastic ball-striking wise, but I just made a lot of ten to 15-foot putts,” Whaley said. “The conditions were really good.”

Garrigus is happy to see his short game coming together nicely.

“My putting was as good as I think I've putted in, I don't know, five years,“ he said. ”I hadn't made that many short putts.

“Everything started on my line and it was really nice. My speed was perfect. I missed a couple of putts earlier on the front and I made par on the par 5.

“My short game was perfect today, which I've been working on it a little bit, but I can't say I've been working really hard. I've only played a couple of times in the past month. I played a couple of Monday qualifiers and played okay.

Bermuda’s Michael Sims tees off in the 2023 Butterfield Bermuda Championship (Photograph by Ras Mykkal)

“I was just coming out to shake the rust off and have a good time today and I guess I did. It was a lot of fun.”

Also in the early hunt a farther shot back among an eight-way tie for sixth is 2009 Open Champion and eight-times PGA Tour winner Stewart Cink.

Play was suspended early yesterday as a result of poor light with Bermuda’s Michael Sims and Oliver Betschart among the three groups yet complete their first round.

Bermuda’s Michael Sims putts but was unable to complete first round at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship (Photograph by Ras Mykkal)

“When I saw the tee time I knew that was always going to happen,” Sims said.

Sims and Betschart had three holes left to play when play was suspended at 5.31pm, leaving them among a seven-way tie for 114th at one over.

“It was a little sloppy at the start and I have been hitting some good iron shots and making some good putts,” added Sims. “I just need to hit more greens and make more putts.”

Betschart settled down after making a nervous start with a birdie at the 18th green being the highlight of his round so far.

“That was just crazy,” he said. “Everybody watching there, a lot of pressure but I got it done.

“Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to put together a good score and have some fun.”

Also flying the island’s banner and making their tournament debuts were professional Scott Roy and amateur Eric West, who are tied for last among the 130-strong field at six over.

Bermuda Professional Golfers Association president Roy was happy with his performance despite his score.

Bermuda’s Scott Roy had a tough day and blamed nerves at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship (Photograph by Ras Mykkal)

“A couple of shots, wedges and putts, kind of got away from me with the nerves,” he said.

Photo gallery

“But once the nerves were under control I was able to actually play my game which felt really, really good so all in all the score doesn’t reflect how well I think I played.

“I was six over but that was in a matter of three holes. So to get 15 holes playing extremely well, I am pretty happy with that and I have some momentum going into tomorrow.

“It was really fun my first PGA Tour round and I am looking forward to giving it my all tomorrow.”

West, the top local qualifier, also felt his score was not a fair reflection of his game.

“Scorecard looks worse than it was,” he said.

“Beautiful weather, course was playing tough but fair. Wind was out of the north and I made a few course management errors that I’ll fix tomorrow.“

Bermuda’s Eric West finished on six over at Butterfield Bermuda Championship (Photograph by Ras Mykkal)

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Published November 10, 2023 at 8:01 am (Updated November 10, 2023 at 9:07 pm)

Alex Noren equals record to grab early lead in Butterfield Bermuda Championship

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