ORLANDO, Fla. – Afternoon eyes at Bay Hill focused on the three big guns of the Tiger Woods, Gary Woodland, and Dustin Johnson pairing who teed off No. 1 at 12:56 p.m. ET. Around 3 p.m. the front nine at Bay Hill had cleared out and it looked almost like a practice round in terms of spectators.
The Golf Channel compound is located just off the second tee so when co-leader at the time, Spencer Levin’s group – which also included Steve Marino and Peter Hanson – made their way to the tee, I scooted out to watch, joining a dozen people in the gallery.
“There’s no one out here! They’re all watching the big cat,” said Marino’s younger brother Scott.
That didn’t seem to faze either Levin or Marino. It’s a comfortable pairing for the two who are each looking for their first victory on the PGA Tour. This is the first time they have played together competitively and both were pumped up when tee times came out on Tuesday. They’re good friends off the course. In fact, Levin stayed at Marino’s home in Tequesta during the Honda Classic.
Through the fifth hole Levin picked up two birdies and went on to end the day with the solo lead after a 66. Levin’s physique and game are so different from the group of the big guns attracting the pre-round hype, but he knows what works for him and he manages to find a way to scratch things out and get it done on the course.
It’s not typical to see a 26-year-old using a belly putter, but Levin doesn’t bat an eye these days.
He tried it out in Las Vegas where during practice, even before and after his competitive rounds, he would use the belly putter, then putt with his traditional putter during the round. Levin's girlfriend Rebecca said she believes that ironically gave him the confidence to putt better during the Justin Timberlake Shriner’s Hospitals for Children Open, where he went on to tie for fourth. He then took a few weeks off and continued to practice and get used to the belly putter before putting it into play at Disney, where he tied for third.
Levin’s been using it ever since and it continues to work for him. He’s only missed one cut in nine previous starts this year and sits 17th in the FedEx Cup standings with two top-10s this year, a T-4 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and a playoff loss at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. By the time the week is over, don’t be surprised if Levin finds a way to break through.