Huh first-round leader at Reno’s Barracuda Championship
RENO – John Huh used outstanding iron play and outstanding putting to record eight birdies and take the first-round lead Thursday afternoon at the Barracuda Championship.
Huh, who finished third here in 2014, had birdie puts of 21, 2, 3, 3, 12, 6, 12 and 9 feet en route to a 15-point day in good scoring conditions at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
Huh has a one-point lead over Miguel Angel Carballo and Stuart Appleby, and he leads Brandon Hagy, Ryan Palmer, Ben Martin, Dicky Pride, Rick Lamb and Patton Kizzire by two points.
Defending champ Greg Chalmers, Davis Love III, Brian Gay, Tyrone Van Aswegen, Brad Fritsch, Tom Hoge, Jay McLuen, Steve Alker, Luke List, J.J. Spaun and Richy Werenski are all at 11 points.
“Twenty-four putts. That’s always nice,” Huh said. “Hopefully I can do it the next few days. I feel like I’ve been playing pretty good golf, but haven’t been able to put it all together. I was able to put it all together today.”
Carballo used a torrid six-hole stretch to put himself among the leaders in the morning group.
Carballo, who tied for ninth here last year and tied for 17th in 2014, started on the back nine. He was minus-1 through six holes, but went birdie-eagle-birdie-bogey-eagle-birdie before stringing together six straight pars to finish his round.
On the par-3 16th, he knocked one in from a greenside bunker for a birdie and then holed out from 160 yards on the par-4 17th. On the par-5 18th, he knocked in a 9-footer. On the par-5 2nd, he drained an 8-footer for birdie and then birdied No. 3.
“I’m hitting it really good because having played here already gives me a little confidence,” Carballo said through an interpreter. “I didn’t start off that well so during the middle of the round got a little bit better and started hitting the ball better, so I’m feeling really good right now.
“We holed out from the bunker on 16, so that felt good going in. That changed the round for me there. And on 17, I just hit it really good and it just hit and it started rolling toward the pin. And then on 2, we hit a good drive and a solid 3-wood. We didn’t see exactly where it ended up, but saw that it bounced good, so we were hoping for the best and it ended up being right behind the pin.”
The veteran Appleby drained eight birdie putts and had two bogeys.
“Yeah, got off to a solid first, sort of first nine,” Appleby said. “Obviously trying to set something up for the second nine. The pins were in tight locations. The greens were certainly firmer than the practice round and that made it a little trickier, but we read the greens pretty well. Rolled it nice.
“Made some bonus putts, I guess you call it, outside 15 plus feet. Missed a couple of short ones, but when you make eight birdies that’s the goal for every day. Six would be a minimum. I felt I knew where the club was going in my swing. That’s something I haven’t really felt for a long time, and I mean most of this year to be honest.”
Hagy got off to a blazing start, racking up birdies on Nos. 10, 11, 12 and 13. After three straight pars, he finished his front nine with birdies at Nos. 17 and 18. He drained a 15-footer on No. 4 (his 13th hole) to complete his birdie barrage.
Hagy hit them close from the outset, as his longest birdie putt was 18 feet on the 17th. He had four birdie putts inside 8 feet.
“Obviously to start with four birdies in a row helps get the day going, “ Hagy said. “And, I made some good putts out there and (hit) good drives and few iron shots when I needed to hit it close.
“Yeah, I mean I’ve been playing well for this last month, I would say. Last week I put it together a little bit more. I love it up here, though. I love mountains. I’ve been going to Sierra Nevadas my whole life, so just this environment gets me going a little bit too.”
Martin has had success in each of his two previous trips to Montreux. He tied for sixth in 2011 and tied for seventh in 2016. He was challenging for the top spot, but finished with a 76 on the final day.
He had three birdies and two pars on the front, after three straight pars, he birdied the par-5 13th to get to 8 points. He strung together four straight pars before draining a 59-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th to get to 13 points.
His bogeys came on Nos. 5 and 7. On 5, he hit a bad tee shot, and he 3-putted No. 7.
“Yeah, it was nice,” Martin said. “Off to a pretty good start. I guess I’ve been here twice now before and had two top-10s. So got some good memories coming back here. Kind of picked up off where I was last time.”
Palmer has switched putting grips, and the move has paid off thus far.
“Wasn’t planning on playing this week, but we decided to because we needed to, obviously,” Palmer said. “So had some great work in the last three days, and with this putting grip I changed to, this claw, I finally got a good round under my belt with it. So overall, yeah, great day, great start for me personally, mentally.”