Is it Sepp Straka’s time to shine?
The former University of Georgia golfer is tied for the lead at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship after carding a bogey-free 7-under 65 at Corales Golf Club.
Straka is one of four golfers leading at 7 under after the first round in the annual Dominican Republic event previously scheduled for March but pushed to this week due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Scott Harrington, Tyler McCumber and Hudson Swafford also finished Thursday with 65s. McCumber, who matched a career low with his 65, briefly led the trio of Harrington, Straka and Swafford, but carded his sole bogey of the day on No. 8, his second to last hole, to fall to four-way tie for the lead.
Despite his bogey which cost him the sole lead after 18 holes, McCumber was pleased with his performance in the event he played once before in 2018.
“I thought I was pretty consistent, especially my effort,” he said. “Put myself in really good spots on the par 5s. If you play the par 5s well out here you have a chance of shooting 7 or 8 under if not lower, so I feel like we did that pretty well today.”
In his second event of the 2020-21 season, Straka is also drawing on his experience from his previous visits to the Corales Golf Club: the 2019 Tour event, in which he finished T-26 at 9 under, and a former Web.com Tour event.
“This course is not really one where you can push it,” Straka said after his opening round. “It’s not — you can shoot a low round out here, but it’s got to be a consistent low round, you’ve got to let the birdies come to you.”
Come to him, they did.
Straka, who began his round on No. 10, carded four birdies on his first nine, including three consecutive on Nos. 14-16. The 27-year-old added an eagle on No. 4 and a fifth birdie on No. 8 to finish his day bogey-free.
“I hit the ball great, made some good putts and everything just kind of fell in line today,” Straka said. “Hit my irons really good, which is important on this track. You’re going to hit a lot of fairways, fairways are pretty wide, but you’re going to want to hit your irons good because the greens, you can miss it in some bad spots.”
Coming off a T-14 finish at the Safeway Open, Straka is looking for his first Tour win. Last season he gained plenty of experience, playing in 25 Tour events, making the cut in 10 and earning three top 10s. Straka totals four top 10s on Tour in his professional career with his best in 2019 when he finished third at the Barbasol Championship. His sole professional win is on the Korn Ferry Tour at the 2018 KC Golf Classic.
One shot behind the co-leaders in fifth are Xinjun Zhang and Joseph Bramlett at 6 under. A slew of players including Brian Stuard and Justin Suh are T-7 at 5 under.
Among the many players to finish T-17 at 4 under is Kelly Kraft, who went eagle-par-ace to close out his round with a 68.
Reigning champion Graeme McDowell shot 2-under 70 to finish T-46 alongside Henrik Stenson, Keith Mitchell and Will Zalatoris.
Straka tees off his second round alongside Sam Ryder and Bo Hoag Friday at 12:40 p.m. ET from the first tee.