SNOQUALMIE, Wash. – Nick Price spent more than an hour on the practice range Thursday night trying to find the swing that had eluded him last week at the Jeld-Wen Tradition.
He even took a club back to his hotel room hoping that his swing would finally click once again.
Somewhere between leaving his hotel and reaching the first tee box, he found it.
Price birdied the first four holes and five of the last seven to match the lowest score in tournament history and take the lead with a 9-under 63 in the first round of the Champions Tour’s Boeing Classic on Friday.
“I didn’t think I’d be sitting here yesterday,” said Price.
Price struggled to a 1-under total at the Jeld-Wen Tradition last week in Sunriver, Ore., finishing in a tie for 38th place.
“Last week I don’t know what happened but I got out of sync,” Price said. “I got here and I didn’t play very well in the Pro-Am yesterday.”
Price and caddy Matt Minister hit the practice range to try and work the kinks out of the three-time major champion’s swing.
Price said his caddy saw he wasn’t setting his club at the top of his backswing and that the club was getting “wishy-washy.” He started to hit the ball better on the range last night and took a club back to the hotel to try and get the feel for his swing back.
His first iron shot of the round was a sand wedge that spun back to a foot on the first hole for an easy birdie. He followed with birdies on the next three holes.
Price rolled in birdies from 20 and 25 feet on the 6th and 13th, respectively, then capped the round with a 40-footer on the 17th.
“It was a really good day,” Price said. “All in all I putted beautifully today.”
Tom Pernice Jr. is two shots back after a 64, and Hal Sutton and Bernhard Langer are tied for third after each shot a 66.
Pernice Jr. surged to the top of the leaderboard early thanks to a pair of eagles at the par-5 15th and 1st holes. He added birdies at the par-5 18th and 8th holes to finish the round at 6 under for the day on the par-5s alone.
“I hit some good wedge shots into two of them and then the other one was a rescue that I hit in there and made the putt and capitalized on it,” Pernice Jr. said.
“The par-5s are gettable here if you drive the ball in the fairway and get a favorable wind on some of them you can take advantage of them.”
Pernice made a 40-footer for birdie on the par-4 12th hole to jump start his round. He then holed out a lob wedge from 92 yards out on No. 15 that spun back into the hole for his first eagle of the day. A 2-iron from the right rough to 10 feet led to another eagle.
Langer hit a 3-wood to six feet from 220 yards out on his second shot on the par-5 8th. He made the putt for eagle to move him to 3 under. Langer then added birdies at Nos. 14, 17 and 18 to stay three shots off the lead.
Hometown favorite Fred Couples shot a 68. Couples had chances to gain ground on the leaders, but had birdie putts from inside 15 feet at Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8 just miss – preventing him from keeping pace with partners Price and Langer.
Couples drove the par-4 14th, a 293-yard hole, with a 277-yard carry over a massive canyon, but three-putted from the front edge of the green.
An errant tee shot on 15 that ended up at the base of a tree in the fescue that lines the course forced Couples to play out to the 16th fairway, leaving him a 250-yard blind shot into the green. The shot missed short left in the rough and he was unable to save par.
“I think I just need, like everybody else, to make a few putts tomorrow,” Couples said.
“I had plenty of chances, especially the first several holes, and I just didn’t make any.”
Defending champion Loren Roberts is tied with Couples and four others at 4 under.