After a bogey on his first hole of the day, the 23-year-old Californian turned it around to the tune of a 7-under 64 and a one-shot lead on Chris Locker of South Carolina. Aussie Neale Smith is at 5-under while three others, including Arden Knoll of Kelowna, BC, are three shots off the lead.
Starting his day on the tenth tee, Higton made the turn at even par before lighting up the front side of the Windermere G&CC for a 7-under 28. On the par-5 first, Higton knocked a 9-iron from 178 yards downwind to within three feet before rolling in the eagle putt. He then reeled off four straight birdies coming in to equal the course benchmark.
That eagle really woke me up and got me going, said the 2002 Big West Conference Player of the Year. I was just rock steady on the back nine. Ive done it all this season in the first round- played good, and played awful- so getting this quick start was key.
Locker, who erased a five-shot deficit in the final round to win the Greater Toronto Open last August, had a bogey-free day en route to his first sub-70 round this season. Players who pegged it up in the afternoon wave Thursday seemed to get the better side of the draw, when strong winds that had swirled all day throughout Windermere began to subside.
People have told me out here that the wind blows in the morning and lays down in the afternoon, and usually it is the other way around, reasoned Locker, whose best finish this year is a tie for 23rd at the TravelTex.com Canadian Tour Challenge. I guess we will see tomorrow. But all in all, I didnt leave a lot out there today. It was a solid round.
Since turning pro last year, Higton has noticed subtle differences compared to the amateur ranks but seems to be holding his own through the first half of the schedule.
The main difference out here is just how many solid players there are. But I am not going to get intimidated. I will stick to what it is I have to do, pick a target and go for it.
Knoll opened with a 67 despite having just played in just one event so far this year, missing the cut in Austin, Texas in February. He has reluctantly adjusted to life away from the tee boxes after a freak accident back in the summer of 2000. While playing in the McDonalds PEI Challenge Pro-Am, Knoll, the 1996 SCORE Award winner as the top touring professional in Canada, suffered an allergic reaction after being stung in the neck by a hornet. The venom leaked into an area behind his right eye, scarring the retina and costing him approximately 80 per cent vision in the eye. His depth perception is very limited, and so Knoll knows he is heading into the twilight of his career. But for one day at least, it was the Arden Knoll of old, with six birdies offsetting a pair of bogeys.
Ive got a game plan this week, and Id be thrilled if I could shoot four under every day, said the 1996 Payless Open champion. I didnt get in a whole lot of trouble today and made some shots when I needed to. I know I can still play, but the difference now is I dont have to please anyone with my swing.
The opening round also featured a hole-in-one when Montreals Craig Matthew aced the 188-yard, par-3 third.