SAFEWAY OPEN: First round gets underway despite smoky skies

Russell Knox shown at the Silverado North Course at the Safeway Open during the first round at 13th course at the PGA Tournament on Thursday Sep 10th in Napa (AP News photo)

By Jeremy Harness

On Wednesday, golfers practiced under skies that looked more like a movie than real life. We’ll put it this way: During the hours that would normally feature bright sunshine during this time of year, lights had to be flipped on to the practice green.

Because of the numerous fires that have all but surrounded Northern California, the streets have been covered with ash and there has only been a faint view of the sun over the last few days.

Somehow, the first round of the Safeway Open, the first event of the 2020-21 PGA Tour season, got underway at Silverado Golf Resort, although play was delayed by about an hour.

Due to the darker skies, play was called off at 4pm PST, with a few groups left on the course, with those players scheduled to play the remaining hole or two early Friday morning.

However, most were able to finish in time, including Russell Knox, who leads the field after shooting a nine-under bogey-free round of 63. He went five-under on the front nine, including an eagle at the par-5 fifth, and then went on to scatter four more birdies on the back side.

Three guys are only one behind Knox, including relative unknowns Sam Burns, Bo Hoag and Cameron Percy. Burns made three birdies on the front nine and then got hot on the back side. He made three birdies in a row on holes 10 through 12 and then went eagle at the par-5 16th.

His only blemish was on the very next hole, when he made bogey before rebounding with a birdie at the par-5 18th.

Former Safeway Open winner Brendan Steele is among the players at seven-under, along with Pat Perez.

Safeway Open: NorCal natives on top of the leaderboard

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By Jeremy Harness

NAPA–The Safeway Open is being held in Northern California, so it’s only fitting that two guys who grew up in the region are in the top two spots as the tournament heads into the weekend.

Bryson DeChambeau shot into the lead with an eight-under round of 64 on Friday. A native of Clovis, which is in the Fresno area, the 26-year-old started off hot and did not really let up the rest of the way. Starting on the 10th hole, he began by birdieing the first three holes in a row and would pick up two more shots on his first nine.

He would go on to birdie three more holes on the second nine and did not record a single bogey in the entire second round.

“Well, I made a couple good putts, that was obviously awesome, and I struck it lot better than I did yesterday,” DeChambeau said. “I scrapped it around, I got it in at four-under, and then I knew today if I could go work on my swing like I did yesterday and come out and feel comfortable like I did today, I’d come out and shoot a low number.”

Meanwhile, Nick Watney, who currently lives in Las Vegas but grew up in nearby Dixon, fired a seven-under round of 65 to vault himself into second place, only two strokes behind DeChambeau. He birdied his first two holes and would birdie two more holes on the front nine but dropped a shot with a bogey at the par-four eighth.

Watney recovered very nicely and finished with quite a flourish. He birdied holes 14 through 16, and he closed things out with a chip-in birdie at the par-five 18th hole.

“It was pretty smooth,” Watney said. “It was kind of like this course, if you keep it in front of you, you’ve got a chance to shoot a good score, so I’m happy with the day.”

However, Friday wasn’t all smiles. Tony Romo, who shot a two-under round of 70 on Thursday to give himself a chance, he shot a six-over 78, which was marred by six bogeys on the front nine and led the way to his missing the cut.

“(I) didn’t hit many fairways today,” Romo said. “With the firmness of the greens, it’s just difficult when you put yourself in some of the spots I was.

“I didn’t putt well. Started (with) three three-putts, I think, on the first eight holes. Kind of gets you a little antsy as far as trying to get some of them back.”