Jerry Smith finally found the putting magic he’d been searching for Friday at TPC Twin Cities. Peter Lonard is just happy he found the course.
Smith spent the early part of the week devoting extra time on the practice greens, even soliciting advice from fellow pros.
“It’s always nice to get somebody else with some eyes on you,” Smith said.
Those following Smith’s opening round saw a bogey-free 8-under 64 in the 3M Championship that gave him a two-shot lead over Lonard, Glen Day, Lee Janzen and two-time winner Kenny Perry.
The 26th and final edition of the 50-and-over golf event is proving to be a crowded affair at the top. Six players are at 5 under, and seven others will begin Saturday in striking distance at 4 under.
Scores overall weren’t as low as in years past, but the Round 1 lead at the 3M Championship has now been 7 under or better every year since 2007.
Smith, making his fourth 3M appearance, has never finished better than tied for 41st. He rolled birdies on three of his last four holes Friday, just the second round he’s shot in the 60s in Blaine.
“The scoring here is a lot lower than I’d imagine it would be,” Smith said. “It’s not necessarily a course I’m super comfortable shooting low scores on. But you have to. And fortunately, I did enough good things.”
It didn’t take Lonard long to do great things. He jarred a 7-iron from 168 yards away on the par-3 fourth hole for the 13th hole-in-one in tournament history.
“My caddie was insisting it was an 8-iron, but I overruled him as per usual,” Lonard said. “It was a perfect yardage, wind off the right with the pin tucked in left.
“Everything sort of fell into place.”
That’s not exactly how the rest of Lonard’s week unfolded.
The native Australian planned a trip home after last weekend’s Senior British Open but found himself the seventh alternate for this week’s PGA Tour event in Reno. So, after a delay in Chicago and a layover in San Francisco, the 51-year-old gave the Barracuda Championship a whirl and got through five practice shots on the range before his cellphone buzzed.
“It said I was second reserve, and I had no idea what for,” Lonard said.
By the time he responded, a guaranteed spot in the 3M was his when Ted Tryba withdrew. Lonard raced to the hotel, repacked, flew back to San Francisco and made it to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport by dawn, six hours before his pro-am on Wednesday.
Two days later, with limited knowledge of the course, he’s very much in contention playing his first non-PGA Tour Champions major event.
“By the time we get to this age we think all golfing gods owe us one,” said Lonard, whose lone hiccup on the day was a bogey on the 10th hole. “They just don’t give them up very often.”
Perry and Janzen each made eagle on 18. Perry’s brought the grandstand to life when he drained a 40-footer to cap his round of 66 — one of 24 rounds in the 60s.
“I didn’t light it up, but I kept adding a little interest to the birdies I was making out there,” said Perry, who took advantage of the afternoon breeze and walloped a 3-wood off the tee on the par-5 18th for the first time in 16 rounds. “And then a huge bonus making that bomb on 18.”
Minnesota native Tom Lehman pleased the large gallery following his group with a birdie on the first hole. Lehman then rattled off eight consecutive pars before a birdie at the 10th and another at 17 to get to 3 under for the day.