SONOMA, Calif. – A week ago Phil Blackmar wasn’t sure he wanted to keep playing competitive golf. Now he’s trying to win for the second straight week.
Four days after his first Champions Tour win, Blackmar shot a 6-under 66 on Thursday to share the first-round lead with Jeff Sluman in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
“Somebody jumped in my body last week … I guess he’s still there,” said Blackmar, who had six birdies in a bogey-free round at Sonoma Golf Club. “I hope he stays there for another three days. I don’t know who he is.”
The 6-foot-7 Blackmar was languishing in 57th place on the money list and needed a top-five finish in San Antonio to avoid having to go to qualifying school. He didn’t like that prospect and was seriously considering retiring.
“I had already determined that if I didn’t (finish strong) then I was not going to play anymore,” said Blackmar, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour who joined the Champions Tour late in 2007. “You can’t qualify on a Monday and follow this tour around. It’s just too hard.”
Sluman birdied three of his first four holes on the back nine, eagled the par-5 16th then birdied 17 to move into a tie with Blackmar.
“I didn’t feel very comfortable over the ball initially but I worked and stayed patient with my golf swing,” Sluman said. “I got into a groove with the putter, which is really nice.”
Eduardo Romero, the Toshiba Classic winner in March at Newport Beach, was a stroke back at 67, and John Cook and Brad Bryant opened with 68s.
Charles Schwab Cup points leader Loren Roberts had two eagles in a 70. Fred Funk, 165 points behind Roberts in second place in the race for the $1 million annuity, had a 71. Jay Haas, the 2008 points champion, also shot a 71, while Bernhard Langer, the only other player in contention for the points title, had a 72.
Langer is 348 points behind Roberts, and Haas is 602 back. The players will receive a point for every $500 earned, making a victory worth $442,000 and 884 points.
Langer leads the tour with four victories and $2,033,451. Roberts, a three-time winner, is second on the money list with $1,854,613.
Blackmar birdied Nos. 6 and 9 to make the turn at 2 under. After a birdie on the par-4 11th, he reached the 587-yard, par-5 13th in two before settling for a birdie. He then birdied the final two holes to extend his streak to 55 holes without a bogey.
Sluman countered an opening bogey with a birdie on the par-5 second, then had four birdies and an eagle while needing just 11 putts over the final nine holes.
“It just kind of clicked on the back,” Sluman said. “Then you start being more aggressive and shooting at pins a little bit more.”
The six-time PGA Tour winner won the Walmart First Tee Open at Pebble Beach last month for his third career victory on the 50-and-over tour.