Matt Marshall of Portland, Ore., and Erik Barnes of Kalamazoo, Mich., carded matching four-under 68s on Thursday at Sunningdale Golf and Country Club in London, Ont., to share the first-round lead at the Tour Championship of Canada.
With cold, windy weather moving in overnight and staying for the duration of the day, that pair was among just 23 players to shoot under par.
The leading score at 68 represents the highest first-round lead of the season on PGA Tour Canada, with Marshall indicating the conditions forced the field to adjust and play with caution.
“You knew going into the round it was going to be difficult. I just tried to really stay patient,” said Marshall.
“I had a real conservative game plan, just a lot of fairways and greens and on some holes, you’re just playing for par,” he said.
One shot behind the early leaders was a group of six players that included British Columbian players Ryan Williams, Adam Cornelson and Eugene Wong, Sean Shahi of California, Jay Myers of Florida and Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont.
With three top-six finishes in each of his last three starts, Gligic has been heating up at the right time late this season.
Ninth on the Order of Merit, he is the highest Canadian and can still play his way into the top five who earn Web .com Tour status next year. He needs at least a solo fourth place finish this week.
“I feel like I have pretty good control of where it’s going,” said Gligic after his three-under 69 on Thursday. “I played well. The conditions were tough. I was hitting a lot of club into the greens and just kind of managing myself well.”
With a solo fourth place finish at the Great Waterway Classic, a playoff loss at the Wildfire Invitational and a tie for sixth at last week’s Cape Breton Celtic Classic, Gligic said he’s getting valuable experience and becoming more comfortable in and around the lead.
“Last week I mentioned how I was really comfortable, even going into the final round,” said Gligic.
“A couple of weeks prior, I felt a little uncomfortable in the final group in Kingston, just because it was kind of unfamiliar, having not been there in a while. I’ve definitely settled in and feel more comfortable under the gun,” he added.
A little cold and rain was no problem on Thursday for Vancouver-area natives Adam Cornelson and Ryan Williams on Thursday as they also finished with scores of 69.
With heavy overnight rains pushing back the start of play two hours on Thursday, the greens crew at Sunningdale and a few other area clubs who pitched in to help worked hard to get the course in shape.
“I think they did a great job getting play ready for today,” said Williams. “You could tell there were a lot of puddles around the course, but I don’t think anyone was complaining about the conditions.”
“There was so much rain last night, the grounds crew did a phenomenal job for us to even play. They rolled good and smooth and my hat’s off to the grounds crew,” he said.
For the leaderboard, click here.