Jeff Maggert and John Merrick shot 4-under 66 on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., leaving U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy two strokes back.
Maggert took advantage of teeing off in the first group with calm conditions for the first seven holes, and finished with four birdies, an eagle and two bogeys. Merrick matched his best round of the year with six birdies and two bogeys, the last on No. 18 when his tee shot went into the water to drop him back into a tie for the lead.
“Had a loose shot there on 18, but you know ... can’t hit every shot perfect out there,” Merrick said.
S.Y. Noh, Arjun Atwal, Jeff Overton and J.J. Henry were a stroke back.
McIlroy, preparing for his U.S. Open title defense next week at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, followed at 68 in a group that included Padraig Harrington, John Daly, and Tacoma’s Troy Kelly.
Merrick tied for 11th here a year ago, and he matched the score he opened with in 2011 despite not getting a chance at a practice round on the course because he was at a U.S. Open qualifier pushed to Tuesday because of weather. He birdied three of his first four holes and birdied three of five on the back nine.
TIE ATOP LPGA MAJOR
Beatriz Recari, Ryann O’Toole and Giulia Sergas shot 3-under 69 to share the first-round lead at the LPGA Championship in Pittsbord, N.Y., while defending champion and top-ranked Yani Tseng matched her high score of the year with a 76.
Jeong Jang was in a tie at 70 with 2010 champion Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Se Ri Pak, Na Yeon Choi, Ai Miyazato and Mika Miyazato.
Stacy Lewis, who has won two of her last three starts, had a 72.
Dan Forsman and Bill Glasson shared the first-round lead in the Regions Tradition, shooting 6-under 66 at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala., in the second of the Champions Tour’s five major championships. Fred Funk was a stroke back, followed by Bernard Langer (68). ... Third-ranked Lee Westwood shot an 8-under 64 to take a three-stroke lead at 12 under after the second round at the European Tour’s Nordea Masters in Bro, Sweden.
TRACKING LOCALS on THE PGA TOUR
This week: FedEx St. Jude Classic, through Sunday, TPC Southwind, Memphis, Tenn.
In the field: Gig Harbor’s Kyle Stanley and Tacoma’s Troy Kelly.
Kelly’s first-round score: 2-under-par 68.
Stanley’s first-round score: 1-over 71.
Position: Kelly is tied for seventh and Stanley is tied for 46th behind co-leaders Jeff Maggert and John Merrick (66).
Recap: The great thing about life on the PGA Tour is that all it takes is one big week to really solidify future playing privileges. And for Kelly, his 68 in the afternoon potentially sets up a real run at a career-best finish (a tied-for-37th showing earlier in the season at Mayakoba Classic is his best). He three-putted from 40 feet and made double bogey at No. 2 – his 11th hole – to fall back to even-par. But he rallied for birdies at No. 3 (9-foot putt) and No. 9 (9-footer) to get two strokes off the lead. It was Kelly’s best start to a tournament since his 4-under 68 at the Farmers Insurance Open in January. … Stanley was scrambling all day around the greens, and missed three putts inside 4 feet – including one from that distance on the finishing hole for bogey.
Tee times today: Stanley at 5:36 a.m. (PDT) off the 10th tee, and Kelly at 6:48 a.m. off the first firstname.lastname@example.org