On a day when southerly winds reached more than 60 km/h at Pine Ridge Golf Club, only five of 156 players were able to get in under par. Lee Williamson, Mike Grob and Michael Sabo each opened with a 2-under 69, with current money leader Jaime Gomez and Daniel DeLeon of Mexico one back.
Adam Short of Vineland, Ont., who began his day on the back nine, had it to 2-under before taking a double bogey on the par-4 eighth, the toughest hole of the day, en route to a 72.
Winnipegs Adam Speirs and Dustin Risdon of Calgary are the top Canadians at even par 71.
Williamson, who finished third in Winnipeg two summers ago, marked his scorecard with four birdies and a pair of bogeys and figured any player under par Thursday made up a few shots on the rest of the field.
It sounds funny, but I still think I left a couple out there, said Williamson, who was in the lead group Thursday morning. Its getting tougher as the day goes on. I think that rough is growing as we speak.
Sabo, the Ohio amateur runner-up in 2002, is now into his third season on the Canadian Tour. After a double-bogey on his opening hole of the day, he bounced back with a birdie on the par-5 second and drained an eight-footer on six. Making the turn at even par, Sabo hit a 7-iron from 185 yards to within 15 feet on the 12th before making the eagle putt.
I knew it was going to be a tough day, so I tried to stay positive, said Sabo of his start. You had to take your lumps and take advantage of the opportunities when they came. This is a shot makers course. With that wind and that rough, if you dont keep it in the fairway, youve got no chance.
Teeing it up on the afternoon side of draw, Grob arrived at Pine Ridge Thursday and was caught off guard when the top number on the leaderboard was a 1-under as the morning draw continued.
Grob was the only player in the afternoon to get in the red.
Ive played this course a lot, and it has beaten me up a lot more than Ive beaten it, laughed Grob, who will become the all-time Canadian Tour earnings leader with a top five finish in Winnipeg. With the wind the way it was today, I try not to get too worried about playing it low or high. You want to play the wind instead of battling it.
Less than a month after qualifying for the Bell Canadian Open at a regional qualifier in Vancouver, Short has put himself in early contention in the Manitoba capital. He hit his tee shot into the woods on number eight, had to chip back out onto the fairway and couldnt save bogey from nine feet away.
I had a couple of bad breaks coming down the stretch, but other than that I played well, he said. Besides the double, I was solid. Those were crazy conditions out there.
With a $15,000 lead atop the money list, Gomez knows a strong showing this week could almost put him out of reach with just three events remaining on the Tour schedule.
With the wind dictating big numbers all day long, Gomez was pleased to be on the happy side of par heading into Friday.
On this course, on a day like today, if you are shooting 1 or 2-over, that is a good round of golf, reasoned Gomez. You cant let the bogeys get to you. Everyone is going to make them. Its playing tough out there.
Winnipeg amateur Scott Loewen created a stir Thursday afternoon when he turned at 4-under before struggling over his inbound nine to post a 74.
Clint Jensen of Florida was 3-under but had a five-hole stretch where he went 8-over, including a triple on the eighth, to come in at plus-5.
NOTES: The par-4 eighth gave up a 4.83 scoring average Thursday and yielded just eight birdies. There were 53 bogeys, 16 doubles and 14 in the vaunted 'Other' category...The weatherman and Pine Ridge brought the field to its knees Thursday. While there were 21 eagles and 324 birdies, there were also 778 bogeys, 158 double-bogeys and 42 'Others'.....The scoring average was 76.63 on the day.