Thursday was a typical opening day at the Humana Challenge.
As usual, everybody gushed about the conditions in the desert.
"Awesome weather, awesome golf courses," defending champion
His playing partner,
There was a leaderboard that included a few familiar names and some others who rise to the surface on the
One of the latter was the leader, Michael Putnam, whose 63 was nine under par at the PGA West Nicklaus Private Course and led by one. The other two courses in use for this year's event — long a January staple on the tour as the
Five others trailed Putnam by one shot, four more were two back at seven under, and five more were looming at six under.
Putnam was even par after six holes, then birdied seven holes on the back nine.
"I hit a lot of shots close, a lot of five-, 10-foot putts," he said, "and I made them all."
If there is a ring of familiarity in the Los Angeles area about Putnam, it could stem from his highly successful career at Pepperdine, where he was a three-time All-American and lost the 2005 NCAA title match in a playoff. The winner of that playoff, James Lepp, set a course record in beating Putnam for the title.
"He sells golf shoes now," Putnam said.
Putnam has been on the main tour for four years, has won around $2 million, lives near Seattle and made it clear he was looking for Super Bowl tickets. His younger brother, Andrew, is also on the tour and was an inspiration to Michael because of how well he played in the tour's autumn events.
Thursday, big brother clearly held the upper hand. Andrew shot 77.
Some of the better-known players in the field fared well. Italy's
Reed, who opened his title run last year with 63-63-63 and kept on going to a spot on the Ryder Cup team, was at seven under. Kuchar was at seven under too.
John Daly, at 48 and still swinging from his heels, was off to a good start at three under.
On the other hand,
Then there was
"I can't wait to get started again," he said, "because I felt like I played a little tight today."
Then there was unheralded Blake Adams, who shot 64 and who, at 39, is feeling like a bionic man. He has been on various pro tours for the past 10 years, but has limped around for much of that time with a bad hip. Finally, he had left hip replacement surgery and Thursday marked his first appearance on the Tour since March.
He made the most of it with 10 birdies.
He lives in Swainsboro, Ga., of which he says, exaggerating slightly, "It's 130 people with no red lights." The actual population is around 7,000.
When he was recovering from his surgery, he was able to practice on his own home practice facility. He said it once was an old dirt road with "pine trees on the left, crops on the right." He said it is about 15 yards wide.
"If you don't hit it straight, you lose your ball," he said. "It's pretty awesome."
Which was much like the weather, and lots of scores, in desert golf paradise Thursday.