Doug Garwood is on track for one of the biggest weekends of his golf career, but he isn’t one to count chickens.
Garwood sizzled to a 7-under-par 65 for a one-shot lead over Brad Faxon on Friday after the first of three rounds of play at the 16th annual SAS Championship at Prestonwood Country Club.
Bernhard Langer and Larry Mize are each at 67, with a group of four one more shot back at 68.
“I don’t know,” Garwood, who has never won a PGA-sponsored tournament, said when asked what a victory might do for him. “You can’t win a tournament on Friday.
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“I did pretty well. I had the seven birdies, but I had four lip-outs so I felt like it should have been more. It was fun.”
Friday marked the first time Garwood has led after a round since 2014.
The PGA Tour Champions event is being played entirely on the Highlands Course after playing nine holes on the Meadows course in previous years. Holes 8 through 11 had been made unplayable by floodwaters earlier in the week, but the full course was ready to go on Friday.
Eighty-one pros teed off beginning at 10:05 a.m. on No. 1 and No. 10.
Faxon has eight PGA Tour victories and two on the senior circuit, the last in the 2013 Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf.
“It was a great start,” said Faxon, who was in the same threesome with Garwood. “Obviously I made a lot of nice putts when I shot that low, and I had fun playing with Jesper (Parevnik, who shot 71). It was nice.”
Langer, far and away the tour money leader ($2,512,659) who is looking for his fifth tournament victory of the season, made an eight-foot birdie putt on 18 to tie Mize for third. The solid round came after a nightmarish first shot that led to a bogey on No. 1.
“The first hole I aimed a little left and yelled ‘fore’ because it was going right down that cart path and hit someone,” said Langer, who won the SAS in 2012. “I was actually aiming there – there’s water on the right so I was aiming down the left. Normally if it wouldn’t have hit that person, it would have gone another 30 yards down. I’ve had some of my best rounds, actually, with a bogey on the first.”
Mize, who teed off in the second group off No. 1 with Dan Forsman (70) and 2004 SAS champion Craig Stadler (79), just missed about a 10-foot putt for birdie on 18.
“I played pretty solid,” said Mize, who has had five straight rounds in the 60s. “A lot of it is just getting out of my own way. But last week was great and I had a good start today.
“I hit a really good putt (at 18). I thought it might break a bit right and it just stayed there. It looked like it tried to go right, and just hung there and barely missed.”
Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is second on the money list ($1,441,237), is in a group of five golfers at 69 along with third-place Joe Durant ($1,396,997).
Defending champion Tom Lehman shot par 72.
Mike Goodes, the UNC alumnus who plays out of Reidsville, is 1-over at 73. Smithfield’s Neal Lancaster, who came into the event in 75th place on the money list, shot a 5-over-par 77.
Kenny Perry, who won here in 2011, is at even-par 72, while 2009 champion Tom Pernice is at 74. Two other past winners, Kirk Triplett (2014) and Mark Wiebe (2007) are at 78.
Russ Cochran, a two-time winner of this event (2010 and 2013), withdrew after one hole with pain in his elbow.
The SAS Championship marks the tour’s first ever “Wildcard Weekend.” If a player who is outside the top 72 on the money list finishes in the top 10 of the tournament, he will qualify for the three rounds of Charles Schwab Cup playoffs.
Those will be the Power Shares QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Oct. 28-30 with 72 players competing; the Dominion Charity Classic in Richmond, Va., Nov. 4-6 with 54 left; and the Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Scottsdale, Ariz., Nov. 11-13 among the final 36 pros.