Golf tour rookie grabs first-day lead at Rex Hospital Open

calexander@newsobserver.comJune 20, 2013 

— Andrew Putnam put a beating on big brother Thursday.

Putnam, a rookie on the Tour, took the first-round lead in the Rex Hospital Open and tied the tournament course record at TPC Wakefield Plantation with a 9-under-par 62.

Raleigh's Chesson Hadley, another tour rookie, surged to an early 63 and appeared set to be the first-day leader. But Putnam went him one better, hitting all 18 greens in regulation, notching two eagles and holing an 8-footer for birdie on the 18th hole for the lead.

Michael Putnam, 30, is a two-time winner on the Tour this year and its leading money winner. But Andrew, 24, easily was "low bro" this day as Michael carded a 3-under 68.

"I finally got the 'low Putnam,'" Andrew Putnam said, smiling. "It hasn't happened in the last 10 weeks, it seems like.

"We like to beat each other, deep down. You always want to beat your friends or family members, but we're also rooting for each other, too."

Andrew Putnam and Hadley are friends, both competing last year on the eGolf Tour, a mini-tour based in North Carolina. On Tuesday, Putnam joined Hadley for a Bible study group at Hadley's parents' house. Then, he went out and beat him by a shot.

Putnam, a three-time All-America at Pepperdine, matched the 62s shot at Wakefield by Rob Bradley (2003) and Scott Brown (2010). He eagled the par-5 fifth and 15th holes and birdied the par-5 ninth, closing with 30 putts.

Lee Janzen, a two-time U.S. Open champion, and Jason Gore were among the seven golfers to shoot 65. Scott Parel, the winner last week in the Air Capital Classic, opened with a 67.

Hadley, the 2010 ACC medalist at Georgia Tech, is ninth on the tour in money but missed the cut last week in Wichita, Kansas. But he didn't fret about it. "Sometimes you just don't get along with the course," he said.

Hadley and Wakefield got along fine Thursday as the lefthander reeled off eight birdies in a bogey-free round.

"I could not have pictured a better start," he said, smiling.

But Thursday was a day for scoring. The temperatures were mild, the winds light and the golf course playing fast.

"It's in unbelievable shape -- the greens are perfect, the fairways are perfect," Hadley said.

Putnam's best finish this season is a tie for ninth in the Mexico Championship and his best round a 65 in the Chile Classic. In Chile, he was paired the first two days with Michael, who also starred at Pepperdine, and both had opening-round 67s.

"That was weird," Andrew said of the pairing. "We were on the first tee and it felt like a practice round. I kind of had to kick myself."

On Thursday, he kicked big brother.

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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