Piercy sets course record to seize early Safeway Open lead


Scott Piercy launched the US PGA Tour’s 2016-17 season with a bang on Thursday, firing a 10-under par 62 to take a two-shot lead early in the first round of the Safeway Open.

Piercy rolled in 12 birdies with two bogeys en route to a course record at the Silverado Resort in Napa, California.

“Oh man, I think I made more feet of putts than I did all last season,” the American said. “We’ve been working on the putter a lot and trying to get some things figured out. Today was a good start off to the season, a good start to give me some confidence with the putter.”

Piercy said it was the putter that let him down as he missed the Tour Championship — the finale of the 2015-16 season in September, as well as the Ryder Cup.

“I just missed getting to the Tour Championship, I ended up missing it by four strokes is what it comes down to,” Piercy said. “Being 150th on the stats last year in putting I think we can figure out where it came from.”

He’s hoping to continue his success on the greens. His sparkling round gave him a two-shot lead over England’s Paul Casey and American Patton Kizzire.

Casey and Kizzire each had eight birdies without a bogey to share second on 64.

Johnson Wagner and Kyle Stanley were in the clubhouse on 65, while Spain’s Jon Rahm joined Troy Merritt on 66, buoyed by a hole in one at his second hole, the par-three 11th.

“It was a very special moment,” Rahm said of watching the seven-iron go in.

The early birdie festival at Silverado lent some excitement to a tournament that threatened to fall flat when 14-time major champion Tiger Woods pulled out on Monday.

Woods had been expecting to make his much anticipated return to competition after a 14-month injury layoff in the wake of multiple back surgeries.

On Monday the former world number one, who will turn 41 in December, revised his plans to play in Napa and in next month’s Turkish Airlines Open.

“After a lot of soul-searching and honest reflection, I know that I am not yet ready to play on the PGA Tour or compete in Turkey,” Woods said. “My health is good, and I feel strong, but my game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be.”

Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, who had been expected to play alongside Woods in the first two rounds this week, said he thought Woods made the right decision.

“We all want Tiger to come back, but we want him to come back when he’s ready,” Mickelson said Wednesday. “If he doesn’t feel like he’s ready, then he should wait.”

© 2016 AFP

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