Thursday, February 16, 2012


By Joe Chemycz, Nationwide Tour staff
BOGOTA, Colombia -- Veteran Peter Lonard of Australia fired a 5-under 66 Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship, the first event on the 2012 Nationwide Tour schedule. Lonard is joined at the top by Americans Brian Smock and Billy Horschel.
Morgan Hoffman and rookie Erik Flores are tied for fourth at the Country Club of Bogota, one shot back of the leaders.
Eight players, led by defending champion Brenden Pappas, are knotted at 3 under.
Three players couldn't beat the darkness and weren't able to finish play. That group will be back at the course and resume play at 7:30 Friday morning local time. 
The 44-year old Lonard completed his round in the morning and held the clubhouse lead for most of the day. Horschel ran off a string of four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine to take the lead at 6-under before three-putting the final hole to fall into a tie.
"I'm going to have nightmares about that last one," Horschel joked afterwards. "I hit two good shots and I hit a great first putt that just broke off and left me with a two-footer. I didn't want to leave myself with that. I got up there and had a little downhiller and wanted to let it die in the hole. I completely stopped my hands and the ball started left and stayed left. I [should] have just jammed it in the back. It'll stick with me for about 20 minutes."
Horschel's miss cost him a share of the course record, first set by Tag Ridings in the first round two years ago.
"Other than that last one, it was a good day. I made a lot of birdies and had an eagle to start the day," said the former Florida Gator. "It could have been better and I'll take it."
Thursday's season opener didn't produce dramatically low scores despite the fact that lift, clean and place conditions were in effect, thanks to seasonal rains that produce almost-daily afternoon and evening storms.
"I don't think it makes a massive difference," said Lonard. "It's more about controlling your ball. It's important because the ball stops where it lands."
It's also important to pick the right clubs, given the fact that Bogota is about 8,400 feet above sea level.
"I'm probably one of the medium hitters so it's about a 10-percent adjustment," said Lonard. "If I want to squeeze a bit more than that I just hit it higher. The ball carries about 15 percent more if you get it up in the air."
The 44-year old from Sydney, Australia has conditional status on the Nationwide Tour and hopes to get one more shot on the PGA TOUR, where he averaged 26 starts a year from 2002-09.
"I'm no spring chicken and there comes a time when you have to decide whether you're going to keep going or you're not," he said. "I suppose this is a make-or-break year. I'm not getting any younger. We'll see how we go this year.
"Obviously this year is the only year I'm interested in at the moment. If I have a really bad year then I'm probably done but I'd like one more shot at the main tour."
Hoffman would appreciate a shot at any tour. The former Oklahoma State All-America has no status on any tour for the 2012 season. He missed qualifying for the final stage of the 2011 PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament by a single stroke and now has to find ways to get into tournaments.
Hoffman's move up the leaderboard came courtesy of his putter.
"My putting was on today," he said. "I drained three big putts today, all of them over 40 feet. It was pretty crazy. My wedges weren't really good but everything else went pretty well."

To view all the scores and pick up on the second day's play later in the day




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