As they set off down the fairway Tuesday at Maridoe Golf Club, Davis Riley, Viktor Hovland and Parker Coody couldn’t help but crack a few jokes.
“We’re all carrying our college bags, even Viktor and I, so you have a ‘Bama bag (Riley), Texas bag (Coody) and Oklahoma State bag (Hovland), and we’re like, ‘Well, this just feels like college golf all over again,’” Riley said. “It was funny.”
However, it was Scottie Scheffler who had the day’s last laugh.
The PGA Tour rookie birdied each of his final three holes, including a chip-in from 25 feet at the par-4 18th, to shoot 6-under and take the first-round lead at the Maridoe Samaritan Fund Invitational, a 54-hole event benefitting the Carrollton, Texas, club’s caddies, who are out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was a tough chip,” said Scheffler, who made eight birdies in 20 mph winds on the difficult layout. “I’ve been inside my house a lot lately, so it was just nice getting outside and playing competitive golf again.”
Added Scheffler’s playing competitor, 15-year-old Texas commit Tommy Morrison, who shot 72: “That was impressive. I definitely didn’t see 66 out there. To see him make eight birdies in person is something you don’t see very often, especially at Maridoe.”
Tuesday’s round was the first tournament round that the 23-year-old Scheffler’s played since the first round of The Players Championship. Scheffler, who currently sits 19th in FedExCup points, had four top-7 finishes in the first 13 events of his rookie season and climbed to No. 45 in the world rankings (and earned his first Masters invite) before the Tour suspended play in mid-March.
He plans to tee it up at Colonial on June 11, which is the current restart date for the Tour, and make a run at the Tour Championship and Rookie of the Year honors.
“That’d be a great accomplishment,” Scheffler said. “I want to go as far as I can in the playoffs and make it to East Lake and play as good as I can there and hopefully win. I don’t put too many limitations on myself.
“But I also don’t like to look too far ahead. I’m looking forward to that first event at Colonial, just getting off to a good start there, and getting back out playing and seeing where my game’s at.”
His first-round performance shows there’s not much rust. Scheffler, who spends most of his time at Royal Oaks in Dallas but plays Maridoe occasionally, leads collegians Austin Eckroat of Oklahoma State and Quade Cummins of Oklahoma by two shots. Riley and Mark Reppe are tied for fourth at 3 under followed by another Tour player, Harry Higgs, and Texas freshman Travis Vick.
“It was nice to feel some butterflies on the first hole today and have a couple of putts and shots that were actually worth something,” said Riley, who won on the Korn Ferry Tour earlier this year. “I haven’t had that in a month or two.”
Hovland, who was co-favorite along with Scheffler entering the event, opened in 75. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo birdied his final hole to card 78 while former NBA All-Star Deron Williams shot 83 in the Gross Flight, 10 shots back of leaders Michael Culin and Rob Couture.
“We have a lot of really good caddies out here and they’re out of work like millions of Americans right now, so for this tournament to come together in such a short time and benefit these guys, I think that’s the most important thing from all this,” said Williams, who is a member at Maridoe. “Yes, it’s great to get out here and play and be the first to do it, but we’re just glad that it’s benefitting our caddies.”
The second round will begin Wednesday at 9 a.m. ET, followed by Thursday’s final round. The event is closed to the public in accordance with the event’s social-distancing rules, which include no caddies or carts, virtual scorecard collecting, closed clubhouse and range, and mandatory temperature checks when players arrive each day.
After 18 holes, players have agreed that the precautions are working as tournament officials hope to make a statement that golf tournaments can be played safely.
“Maridoe is going about it the right way,” Riley said, “and I think it could show other organizations, like the PGA Tour, LPGA, Korn Ferry or whatever, that golf can get back sooner than maybe people think as long as everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to, and that’s what we’re doing, having fun while maintaining social distancing and doing all the right things, and we’re off to a good start. I think it’s going to be a great week.”