Van Pelt Leads in Puerto Rico


PGA Tour (75x100)RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico - Bo Van Pelt never has much planned for World Golf Championship weeks.
That might change, though, after he opened with an 8-under 64 on Thursday to take the first-round lead in the inaugural Puerto Rico Open.
Because the 32-year-old Van Pelt doesnt play many WGC tournaments such as this weeks CA Championship at Doral, he usually takes a break before his next tour stop.
But with only one full tournament under his belt since mid-February'and the kids on spring break'Van Pelt changed his routine and headed to Puerto Rico.
So I was excited, he said. I said, Lets go down there and have some fun.
Van Pelt certainly had a good time at Trump International Golf Club. He shot his best round since last June to take a two-stroke lead over Ted Purdy and Kyle Thompson.
Five players, including Jerry Kelly, were another stroke back at 67.
Van Pelt had birdies on three of his first five holes. His lone bobble of the day came on the par-4 fourth after driving the ball in the water for a bogey.
Things took off with three consecutive birdies to start the back. He made a 10-footer on No. 10, followed with a 6-foot putt on the par-3 11th, then closed with an 8-footer on No. 12.
Van Pelt says his most important shot came to save par on the 14th, a long, 459-yarder. After hitting what he called his only poor iron shot of the day left of the green, Van Pelt chipped to tap-in range.
You make bogey you kind of kill your momentum a little bit, he said.
Instead, Van Pelt charged to the end. He made birdies on three of his last four holes, his best performance since a 64 at the Travelers Championship nine months ago.
When the year started, I probably didnt have this on my schedule, said Van Pelt, smiling.
Purdys someone else wholl pencil this in next spring.
Hed earned more than $5 million and his lone PGA TOUR title, the 2005 Byron Nelson event, between 2004-06. But he lost his tour card, finishing 127th on the money list last year, then flamed out at tour qualifying.
Purdy spent the offseason crunching abs along with refining his short game, his biggest problem from a year ago.
Results have been slow coming. Purdy missed three of five cuts this season and hadnt finished better than a tie for 50th in Februarys FBR Open.
In Puerto Rico, Purdys seen things work the way hed hoped.
Its my best round of the year and maybe my best round in a while, he said.
The highlight was snaking in a 60-footer for birdie on the par-3 sixth hole, his 15th. Purdy threw his hands in the air in celebration when the ball dropped in.
I watched Tiger do it on TV a lot, so I know it can be done, Purdy joked.
Kelly, at No. 63 in the world is the highest-ranked player in the PGA TOURs first island visit. Maybe it was the Atlantic waves crashing against the shore or the tropical El Yunque rain forest behind, but Kelly felt an energy he hadnt much of this season'it was just his second sub-70 outing in his past 10 rounds on tour.
I love being surrounded by water, Kelly said. People are different when theyre surrounded by water. They just go with the flow a lot more than when theyre surrounded by concrete and structures.
Thompson, a rookie from South Carolina, played bogey-free golf to catch Purdy.
No question the suavest golfer here is Chi Chi Rodriguez. The eight-time PGA TOUR winner and tournament host strolled the grounds Thursday morning in a black leather coat and dark sunglasses.
Officials hoped to persuade Rodriguez, whose career has been celebrated all week, to tee it on native soil. But at 72, Rodriguez was content to shake hands, greet friends and pose for pictures. I didnt want to take a spot away from young men trying to make a living, Rodriguez said.
Alex Cejka had two top finishes this month and was thought to be a favorite. But Cejka opened with 5-over 77 and was tied for 123rd. That group also included course designer Tom Kite. Willie Wood broke in a new caddie Thursday, his 11-year-old son Hayden. With the family on spring break, Wood decided to give Hayden a go, although the two have worked together on the Nationwide Tour. The Woods finished at 1-over 73.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Puerto Rico Open
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes