Rhein Gibson shoots 64, leads by one at the LECOM Health Challenge
Clymer, New York – Australian Rhein Gibson rolled in a four footer for birdie on the 18th hole to shoot 8-under 64 and take a one-stroke lead over local favorite Dominic Bozzelli (65) in the first round of the LECOM Health Challenge.
Gibson leads Miguel Angel Carballo, Sebastian Cappellen, Nate Lashley, Curtis Thompson and Joel Dahmen by two shots.
“I played nice today,” said Gibson. “I hit some good shots and made a couple of nice putts. I’m pretty stoked.”
The 8-under-par score is Gibson’s lowest round this season on the Web.com Tour. In his rookie campaign on the PGA TOUR, the 30-year-old Oklahoma Christian University alum has played 16 events and made the cut seven times. His best performance, a tie for 25th, came at last week’s Barracuda Championship.
“I’ve kind of struggled with my game all year,” said Gibson. “I feel like I’m on the right track. I’m going to try and play well here and carry that momentum into the Barbasol next week.”
In 2015, Gibson kicked his game into high gear during the Web.com Tour Finals. He fired back-to-back 65s on the weekend the Web.com Tour Championship, finished fourth and earned a PGA TOUR card for this season. His best showing last year on Tour came in Lafayette at the Chitmacha Louisiana Open where he finished tied for second.
“I just haven’t had that this year,” said Gibson, who carded five birdies in his final seven holes to jump into the lead. “I feel like I’m trending in the right direction. I need to finish the season strong and see where it puts me for next year.”
Bozzelli signed his scorecard about 15 minutes before Gibson and momentarily held the outright lead. The 25-year-old from Rochester, New York had a nice gallery on hand to watch him rise up the leaderboard on Thursday afternoon. Bozzelli had never stepped foot on the Peek’n Peak Resort’s Upper Course before this week but seeing so many familiar faces outside the ropes allowed him to relax and concentrate on the task at hand.
“I really appreciate all the support,” said Bozzelli, who has given away more than 20 tickets to friends and family this week. “It’s great having all those people out there and I really think it’s easier to focus.”
Bozzelli had a few crowd pleasing highlights throughout the round, but none drew a bigger cheer than his flop shot on the par-5 18th hole to setup birdie. Coming out of the right rough with very little green to work with, the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship winner hit a towering pitch that checked to within two feet of the hole.
“With the greens being softer today, it makes that shot easier,” said Bozzelli. “I didn’t want to be there, but it set up perfectly to hit that shot.”
After his win earlier this season in Punta Cana, Bozzelli has had trouble cracking the top 30. He has made the cut in the three events following his maiden victory but hasn’t contend since his magical week in the Dominican Republic.
“A lot of things get thrown at you,” said Bozzelli, who felt mentally fatigued after the Air Capital Classic. “The week off was nice. I got to push the reset button this past week and came out here fresh and ready to go.”
* Thursday weather: Mostly sunny. High: 83, Low: 73, Winds: W-SW 7-14 mph.
* This week’s purse is $600,000, with $108,000 going to the champion.
* Miguel Angel Carballo turned in his lowest first-round score on Tour Thursday morning since the Club Colombia Championship presented by Claro back in February (64).
* In 13 events played on the PGA TOUR this season, Carballo has made four cuts. His best performance came last week at the Barracuda Championship (T9).
* Kyle Thompson played in the Peek’n Peak Classic from 2004-07, made two cuts and finished T24 (2005) and T8 (2006). His bogey-free 67 on Thursday is his best score in 13 competitive rounds at the Upper Course
* In his last two starts, Nate Lashley has recorded a T13 at the Nashville Golf Open and a T23 at the Air Capital Classic. Each time you finish inside the top 25 you gain entry into the next event. Lashley entered the week with eight consecutive rounds of par-or-better. His 6-under 66 on Thursday is his lowest first-round score this season on Tour. He is currently No. 120 on the money list.
* Web.com Tour money leader Wesley Bryan shot a 3-over 75 in the first round and is tied for 129th. Bryan ($296,092) leads Richy Werenski ($263,470) by a little less than $33,000. Werenski also carded a 3-over 75.
Bogey Free Rounds:
R1 – Dominic Bozzelli (65), Sebastian Cappellen (66), Joel Dahmen (66), Erik Barnes (67), Scott Harrington (67), B.J. Staten (68), Alexandre Rocha (68),
Scoring Average for the Upper Course for the week:
Round 1: 36.083 35.673 71.756
|Rhein Gibson||64 (-8)|
|Dominic Bozzelli||65 (-7)|
|Miguel Angel Carballo||66 (-6)||Sebastian Cappellen||66 (-6)||Nate Lashley||66 (-6)||Curtis Thompson||66 (-6)||Joel Dahmen||66 (-6)|
|Rhein Gibson||64 (-8)|
|Dominic Bozzelli||65 (-7)|
|Miguel Angel Carballo||66 (-6)|
|Sebastian Cappellen||66 (-6)|
|Nate Lashley||66 (-6)|
|Curtis Thompson||66 (-6)|
|Joel Dahmen||66 (-6)|