Golf

JJ Spaun opens with 1-shot lead at Web.com Tour’s Rex Hospital Open

Chase Marinell fell sick Sunday, had a fever of 103 by Tuesday, woke up woozy Thursday and threw up in the middle of the 11th fairway.

Brady Schnell played his first two holes Thursday in a fog – literally.

Bhavik Patel had a hole-in-one at the par-3 fifth hole, and Chris Wilson holed his approach shot at the par-4 sixth for an eagle.

As for J.J. Spaun, there were no such dramatics in the opening round of the Rex Hospital Open. Just an 8-under-par 63 that he called stress-free, one that was good enough for a one-shot lead in the Web.com Tour event at TPC Wakefield Plantation.

Wilson, a Raleigh resident who plays out of Wakefield, and Ryan Yip each had 7-under 64s. Marinell, Schnell and Jason Millard opened with 66s, as did Grayson Murray, the Raleigh native who received a sponsor’s exemption into the tournament.

Spaun, a California native who played college golf at San Diego State, was the 2015 player of the year on the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada, winning the Staal Foundation Open – yes, those Staals – in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Yip is a Canada native who was born in Calgary and played at Kent State.

While Spaun has a top-10 finish this year and is 41st on the tour money list, some at the top of the leader board have struggled.

Schnell, who has missed his last four cuts, was one of the early starters Thursday and had trouble locating his first two tee shots.

“You couldn’t see the ball land because of the fog,” he said.

Marinell, 24, had a 5:30 a.m. wakeup call, said he was in “rough shape” and considered withdrawing. After six starts and six missed cuts, it wasn’t as if he was playing well.

Instead, he toughed it out. Marinell did have that moment at the par-4 11th hole where he needed to stop on his way to the green and …

“Barfed for 20 seconds straight,” he said. “It was kind of embarrassing.”

Marinell also birdied the hole, saying, “Beware of the sick golfer.”

Or the desperate golfer, Yip said. The Web.com Tour will have a reshuffle after next week’s BMW Charity Pro-Am, with a new playing priority based on the money list.

Yip, a self-taught golfer, is 146th on the list with $3,101. He missed the 36-hole cut in five straight tournaments before tying for 67th two weeks ago in the United Leasing & Finance Championship.

“People are trying to get as high as they can before the reshuffle and people are desperate,” Yip said. “Their backs are up against the wall.”

Wilson, who moved to Raleigh in January, missed the first six cuts this year, then was 51st in his last start. Total winnings: $1,655.

Wilson eagled the par-4 sixth, holing out a 7-iron approach from 177 yards. Patel’s ace at the fifth came on a 7-iron from 181 yards.

Murray had six birdies and a lone bogey at the par-4 14th after a loose tee shot. He just missed in qualifying last week for the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, shooting a 65 at Gaston Country Club, then won a mini-tour event — and $3,500 — with a 66 and 67 at Palisades Country Club in Charlotte.

“I’m playing well and it’s obviously nice being at my home track,” said Murray, who become the second-youngest player to make a cut on the Web.com Tour in the 2010 Rex, when he was 16.

Spaun, 25, had six birdies and an eagle at the par-5 15th, just missing a birdie putt at the 18th. His 63 matched his opening-round score in the Chitimacha Louisiana Open, where he tied for seventh.

Spaun won the Staal Foundation Open last summer, saying he had the chance to meet Eric, Jordan and Marc Staal. He’s now after a bigger victory.

“You want to keep your foot on the pedal,” he said. “Go with it and see what happens.”

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip

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