By Ken MacLeod
When you have a team full of stars as does Texas, you never know which one is going to go blazing across the firmament.
It was Gavin Hall’s turn Monday. The talented sophomore from Pittsford, N.Y. posted a 5-under 65 in the first round of the Big 12 Championship, a round that had the coaches, spectators and fellow competitors gaping with admiration and helped stake the Longhorns to a comfortable 16-shot lead over Iowa State through 36 holes.
Hall’s round of six birdies against one bogey fell a bit short of the major championship record-tying 63s posted by Raymond Floyd in the first round of the 1982 PGA Championship and matched by Tiger Woods in the 2007 PGA Championship. Some also noted that there is no rough to contend with in spring. However, Woods and Floyd also set their marks on hot, dry days while Hall’s round came on a wet course in a chilling northeast wind. The average score in the first round was 5-over 75.
Texas, with all five of its starters in the top 18, shot 7-over 567. Iowa State is next at 23-over 583, followed by Texas Tech at 585. Oklahoma is fourth at 588, followed by TCU 590, Oklahoma State 594, Baylor 597, Kansas 600 and Kansas State 604.
Hall, after an afternoon round of 1-over 71, leads teammate Scottie Scheffler by three shots. Scheffler, who won the 2013 U.S. Junior and made the cut at the Byron Nelson last spring, shot 3-under 67 in steady rain in the afternoon round, showing off all his vaunted short-game skills. He is at 1-under 139. Tied for third at 1-over are Michael Gellerman of Oklahoma (71-70) and Clement Sordet of Texas Tech (71-70).
"I felt really comfortable out there because we’ve been playing some good courses in tough conditions this spring," Hall said. "I felt if I kept the ball below the hole, I would have a chance to shoot a good number. This is the type of course where you just want to hit fairways and greens and give yourself a chance. A lot of guys were having trouble with the winds swirling."
Hall, who was recruited by OSU both before he went to UCLA and when he transferred to Texas, chipped in from off the green for birdie on the first hole, then birdied 6, 10, 12 and 13 before his first bogey on the long par-4 16th. He got that back with a birdie on the tough par-4 18th.
For the deep Longhorns, Doug Ghim, winner of the 2014 and final U.S. Public Links Championship, and Beau Hossler, Western Amateur champion who briefly led the 2012 U.S. Open at age 17, are tied for 10th at 6-over.
"If we had a PGA Tour event here today, that 65 would have been winning after the first round," said OU coach Ryan Hybl. "That’s really impressive."
"That’s really, really good," said OSU coach Alan Bratton. "With that wind, the golf course played long. As soft as it was, even the short holes played long. The pare-3s all played into that east wind. There’s no rough and the greens are not firm, even though they’re plenty fast. But that’s a heck of a score."
Hybl and Bratton were not nearly as enamored with the performance of their teams. Both had high hopes coming in that they could at least contend with Texas. Barring a Longhorn collapse, the rest of the field is in a battle for second.
"We’ve got a talented team, but right now I’m not getting much out of them," Bratton said. "We’ve got to have a couple of guys to decide to play good. You can’t force things out here, but we’ve got to execute better. Get the ball on the green and make some putts."
Zach Olsen led the Cowboys with rounds of 75-71 and is tied for 10th. Jordan Niebrugge is at 9-over 149 (76-73), Brendon Jelley at 10-over (77-73), Tanner Kesterson, starting for slumping 2014 Big 12 Player of the Year Wyndham Clark, shot 12 over (73-79), and Kristoffer Ventura, the Cowboys hottest player this spring, shot rounds of 82-76.
Although the Sooners were slightly better, Hybl was equally displeased.
"We didn’t play any good," he said. "What’s upsetting is all the double and triple bogeys we had. That’s just not good course management. You can make bogeys out here all day, but you’ve got to avoid the big numbers by playing smart and we didn’t do that."
While Gellerman was solid, the Sooners only other player in the top 20 was Grant Hirschman, tied for 18th at 9-over. Beau Titsworth (78-73) is 11-over, Charlie Saxon, playing on his home course, shot 78-74 and is 12 over, while Luke Kwon (73-81) is 14 over.
Complete scores and statistics are available at www.golfstat.com