An early morning rain and mild winds made for a day of low scoring during the opening round at The Players Cup Thursday.
Peter Campbell and Carlos Sainz Jr. took advantage of the conditions and shot 7-under-par 65s at Pine Ridge Golf Club. Both golfers are coming off slow starts to the PGA Tour Canada season.
Campbell, of Baddeck, N.S., missed the first two cuts of the year before tying for 44th place at the Syncrude Boreal Open last week. During his final round he shot 69 and used that momentum to start the tournament.
"I hit it good starting out on the front and made a couple of birdies early," Campbell said.
Campbell started on the tenth tee, collecting birdies on holes 12 and 14. A three-putt on No. 18 set him up for his only bogey of the day.
He then developed a good feel for the greens, making birdies on six of the last nine holes.
Sainz, meanwhile, believed the soft greens from a morning rain and the low winds of five km/h were something he needed to take advantage of.
"You know, when it's soft out like it is right now and with no wind, the golf course is going to yield some good scores," Sainz said. "So I was able to take advantage of that and make some good putts. I actually could have gone a little lower, but I had a couple of good recoveries and I'm just happy to be where I'm at."
The Elgin, Ill., product hit a water hazard twice during the round, but saved par on one hole and even birdied No. 8 after dumping his ball in the water again. An accurate 5-iron shot put him within six feet of the pin.
Like Campbell, Sainz missed the first two cuts of the season before playing a full four rounds at the Syncrude Boreal Open.
He finished that tournament at 4-under to tie for 25th.
"It's been a little frustrating the first couple of tournaments out of the gate. I haven't really been playing as well as I feel like I should be and I'm finally putting together some good rounds and giving myself some opportunities. It was good to capitalize on a good round for sure," Sainz said.
Doug McGuigan of South Africa had an opportunity to join Campbell and Sainz at 7-under but a bogey on his final hole, the par-three ninth, pushed him back down at 6-under.
Wil Collins, ranked No. 2 on the PGA Tour Canada money list, finally got the start he was looking for at The Players Cup. After arriving late to Winnipeg the past couple of years, Collins was prepared and ready to take advantage of the course conditions.
"I saw the forecast this morning and even though I saw some rain in the forecast I saw it was going to be pretty calm," Collins said.
"So I figured the course was for the taking and I just wanted to come out firing. I had a little bit of a slow start but got it going around the turn and, you know, I'm happy with my round."
Collins' 5-under round was good for the clubhouse lead for most of the morning. After making seven birdies, Collins dropped to 5-under when he bogeyed the fifth and ninth holes.
"I didn't really finish my round off today, but tomorrow I'll be ready to do that," he said.
Collins will be seeking his second tournament win on the PGA Tour Canada after winning the Dakota Dunes Open in Saskatoon.
Sixty-eight players were under par while 85 sat at an even par or better. Among those, 20 players sit within three shots of the lead.
Max Gilbert of St. Georges led all Manitoba players with a 3-under-par 69 while 1996 Players Cup champion Rob McMillan opened the tournament with a 72.
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