Couch Leads After One Round in Mexico
Rafael Alarcon, Bob Gaus and John Kernohan share second at 7-under, while Tim O'Neal, Richard Johnson, Tim Petrovic and Oscar Serna are a two shots back at minus-six.
Couch began on the back nine in Thursday's opening round at the Club Campestre and birdied his first three holes. He carded birdies at No. 15 and No. 17 to go out at 5-under 31.
Couch birdied his 10th, the par-5 1st, but then dropped a stroke with a bogey at the fifth. He took the lead in the tournament with a birdie at the eighth and then a 50-foot eagle putt at the ninth for his 64.
'I really don't know why but I like what is going on and I hope it continues,' said Couch, whose victory last week was his first on the Buy.Com Tour. 'I think that it's a little bit of a breakthrough last week finally winning, and I'm playing with a lot of confidence right now.'
Alarcon had a chance to match Couch at the top of the leaderboard but missed a four-foot eagle at his last, the ninth. He was flawless on Thursday when he collected seven birdies and no bogeys for his 65.
Alarcon has played in seven of the last eight Monterrey Opens with varying levels of success. Five times, Alarcon has missed the cut, but his two other finishes were as runner-up, including a playoff loss to PGA Tour player Stuart Appleby in 1994.
'The problem I have had in the past is the first nine holes,' said Alarcon, who played the first nine holes at two-under. 'Usually, I played in even-par or one or two-over and that has killed me because you have to make sure to get off to a good start to get good momentum going.'
Gaus also went bogey free on Thursday while Kernohan posted six birdies, an eagle and a bogey for his 65.
O'Neal was in good position to own the lead after he got to 7-under through 12 holes, but problems hit at the 13th. He went bogey, double-bogey, bogey over a three-hole span (the 13th-15th) that dropped him to minus-three.
O'Neal rebounded at the eighth when he hit his sand wedge from 104 yards 10 feet over the hole and then watched as it spun back and into the cup for an eagle. He birdied the last hole to finish with a 66.
Mike Brisky, Keith Clearwater, Brian Hull, Jason Caron, Jason Buha, Pablo Del Olmo, Mike Heinen and Deane Pappas share ninth after opening-round scores of 5-under 67.
Click here for full-field scores from the Buy.Com Monterrey Open
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Hahn jabs USGA over possible ball rollback
As debate continues to heat up over possible sweeping changes to the golf ball amid distance concerns, PGA Tour pro James Hahn chimed in to question the merits of a potential rollback.
The ball and distance debate gained traction earlier this week when Jack Nicklaus offered that the ball should be rolled back to the approximate distances achieved in 1995, and he put blame for the current situation squarely at the feet of Titleist. That drew a response from former Titleist CEO Wally Uihlein, who put the onus back on the governing bodies.
It's an issue that will likely be discussed for months to come, but Hahn took to Twitter to throw a jab toward the USGA and play devil's advocate on some key arguments related to a possible rollback:
Breaking news. In addition to limited flight balls, the USGA plans to ban working out, proper diet and swinging faster than 105mph. They are also planning on removing the 3 point shot in the NBA.— James Hahn (@JamesHahnPGA) February 23, 2018
If we were playing a match, would you rather hit 7 iron to my 9 iron OR hit hybrid to my 5 iron? Oh and by the way, I can still hit par 5s in two with 3 wood. You can't.— James Hahn (@JamesHahnPGA) February 25, 2018
Hahn, who has two career PGA Tour wins and lost in a playoff last month at the Sony Open, ranks 55th on Tour this season in driving distance with an average of 301.2 yards off the tee.
Na fires back over slow play criticism from cricketer
Kevin Na fired back over recent criticism he received about his purported slow play at last week's Genesis Open.
Kevin Pietersen is a retired English cricketer with more than 3.6 million followers on Twitter. He tweeted a video of Na, known as one of the slower players on the PGA Tour, taking more than a minute to line up and hit what he described as a "Tap In" during the final round at Riviera:
SERIOUSLY, Kevin Na?!?!— Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) February 18, 2018
That Is A Tap In, MATE! pic.twitter.com/YMmNT6m5H7
He then added another video of himself on a green in Dubai, where he again called out Na and showed how long he believed it should take for a player to brush in a short putt:
Na has faced his fair share of slow play criticism, but this time he decided to defend himself. Na isn't on Twitter, but he took to Instagram to tell Pietersen to "stick to your own sport," pointing out both the length of the putt in question and the stakes that were involved during the final round, when Na went on to tie for second behind Bubba Watson:
@kp24 lets get some facts straight. Shot tracker shows what u call “tap in” 3ft 4in. Since when is 3’4’’ on green speed 12 a “tap in.” FYI 1 shot for me on Sunday was 300k. Difference between T2 and T4. Yes, I did back off because the line didn’t feel right. So what! BTW that was the only putt I backed off all day. Also our group was on pace all day! We waited if anything. @pgatour @golfdigest @golf_com @golfchannel #getyourfactstraight #sticktoyourownsport #everyshotcounts
Pepperell wins his first European Tour title in Qatar
DOHA, Qatar - Eddie Pepperell survived a tense finish to win the Qatar Masters at the Doha Golf Club on Sunday for his maiden European Tour title.
The 27-year-old Englishman held off a spirited challenge from compatriot Oliver Fisher, who needed a third successive birdie on the 18th hole to force a playoff, but had his putt from six feet slip past the hole for a par.
Pepperell shot a 2-under-par 70 for a four-day tally of 18 under 270, while Fisher, who started the day tied for the lead, could only manage a 71.
Sweden's Marcus Kinhult (68) finished third at 16-under.
The No. 154-ranked Pepperell made things difficult for himself with a bogey on the 15th hole, but hit a superb wedge to three feet on the next to get back to 18 under again.
Fisher, who appeared to have fallen out of contention with three bogeys starting on the third hole, stormed back with birdies on the 14th, 16th and 17th holes.
On the last, Pepperell laid up with his second into the thick rough, made wet and unwieldy by rain in the Qatar capital, but found the green in three and two-putted for the win when Fisher missed his birdie putt.
''I did the things I needed to do, I didn't play fantastic but I won ugly and for the first win to be ugly is good. Hopefully, I'll have some prettier ones in the future,'' said Pepperell.
''I knew I was playing well, especially tee to green, so I expected a lot of myself this week and I guess to pull it off is amazing. When Oli birdied the 17th, that was when it really caught up with me that I was only one ahead. I was in my own zone, I knew I had a couple of shots of lead but Oli did great. It was a tough front nine for him and I had to stay right in my own way and out of the two guys' way because they were struggling a bit and it's sometimes easy to get dragged into that.''
Fisher was disappointed, but saw the silver lining in the way he fought back.
''It went all the way to the last hole which, after my front nine, was what I was hoping for on the back nine,'' said Fisher, who won the 2011 Czech Open, but recorded his first top-three finish since the 2014 Africa Open.
''I hit a lot of good shots coming down the back nine and gave myself a lot of good chances, but there were just too many bogeys today, four in total, so you're never going to win a tournament making that many mistakes on a Sunday. But at least I pressed him all the way.''
Italian Renato Paratore (66) had the low round of the day and finished tied for fourth place at 15 under par, where he was joined by the Spanish pair of Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Pablo Larrazabal along with Gregory Havret of France.