Peter Koutroumpis (@pksport)
RALEIGH, NC – There were a lot of red numbers on the leaderboard following the first round of play in the 2023 UNC Health Championship at Raleigh Country Club on Thursday.
Kyle Westmoreland and Matt McCarty remained the clubhouse leaders at 7-under par throughout the day.
For second-year member McCarty, the co-leader position was the first of his Korn Ferry Tour career, while Westmoreland carded a career-low round in matching with his 7-under 63 to share the 18-hole lead.
“I hit some good iron shots and made some putts, that’s kind of what the name of the game is out here,” Westmoreland said of the challenging Donald Ross layout.
“It’s fairly forgiving off the tee. Helps if you hit some — there’s a couple holes that are maybe drivable, but if you can wedge it well, I think you’re going to get a lot of tight lies around these greens. So, if your pitching’s on and you can hit some iron shots, make some putts, you can score out here.”
“I just hit the ball really well,”McCarty pointed out as the key to his round.
“These greens are tough so if you hit it close, you kind of have a lot of looks, but if you miss a little bit, you can be going up and over some of these slopes. So, it was a good day hitting the ball and when I did miss, left myself on the right side.”
For Raleigh natives Grayson Murray and Carter Jenkins, who’ve both played in the Championship numerous times, the opening round of play set the steady mindset needed to traverse a course they’ve played since high school.
Murray posted a 4-under par 66, topping it off with birdies on three of his last four holes (15, 17, 18).
A fist pump after dropping the birdie putt on 18 set the tone heading into Friday, especially after carding a bogey on the par-4 opening hole.
“I just missed it short right, which you can’t do with that pin,” Murray said.
“Usually we play it as a par-5, but obviously they moved it to a par-4 this week for us. I didn’t really make much, many putts until I guess the last few holes. But, I made a lot of par saves. When I say par saves, my speed on the greens were just a little off and just kind of had the four or five-footers coming back all day, but I was rock solid with them.
“I just hit a really big drive on 18 – I didn’t expect it to get all the way down the hill, kind of into the wind. So we had a good number into that pin. That was kind of a bonus birdieing the last hole. I would have taken a par before I teed off on that hole. But yeah, at 4-under we’re in striking distance. Can’t win the golf tournament (in) first round.”
For Jenkins, his even-par 70 finish was acceptable, despite bogeying 18 following a less-than-desired tee shot that negated his lone birdie of the day on the par-4 13th.
“I was playing well,” Jenkins noted.
“Missed a really good amount of birdie putts that I had, that I could have converted.”
The misses didn’t impact his mindset with the expectation to build on his play heading into Round 2.
“I’m just gonna go out there with the same game plan I had today, and hopefully a few more putts drop and we’ll see. Maybe that’ll put me right there. I mean golf’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. So, I didn’t play my way out of it today. I would have liked to get a couple more strokes, but it’s a long way to go still this week.”
Notables: Tour rookie Trent Phillips carded a career low 6-under 64 and set a new personal best 18-hole position…Five players recorded bogey-free first rounds, including Jacob Bridgeman and Frankie Capan III who both sit T3.
Triangle Sports Network: 401-323-8960 | @tsportsnet