Potomac, Md. – Jason Gore fired a 7-under 63 Thursday to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Web.com Tour’s Neediest Kids Championship in Potomac, Maryland. Gore admittedly didn’t hit the ball well but was outstanding on the greens as he moved to the top of the leaderboard.
Australian Alistair Presnell and Texan Michael Connell share second place with Will Wilcox after posting 5-under 65s at the renovated TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm. Monday qualifier Josh Persons was at 5-under through 17 holes but failed to finish because of darkness. Persons and his two playing partners will resume play Friday morning at 8 a.m. In the meantime, the second-round will begin as scheduled at 7:05 a.m.
D.J. Brigman, Matt Weibring, David Lingmerth, Woody Austin, Phillip Pettitt, Sam Saunders and Paul Claxton are tied for sixth place, three back of the leader.
“I believe I turned myself into a good putter,” said Gore, who had only 23 strokes on the greens. “Last year, when I had shoulder surgery, that’s all I did. I feel good over it (the ball) now. I look at it and – let’s put it this way, the putts that don’t go in, I’m shocked. That’s a good attitude.”
Gore has been close this season, making 13 cuts in 17 starts but has only one top-10 finish this year and entered the week No. 65 on the money list.
“I really didn’t hit it that great but somehow got it around. I just made everything I looked at, which is nice because I’ve been hitting a bunch of lips the last few weeks,” he said. “You can’t have expectations in putting. You go up there and try to read it as well as you can and try to hit your line. It’s a funny game.”
Sometimes it’s isn’t all that funny. Gore, the Tour’s all-time victory leader with seven titles, shot a 6-over 78 to start last week’s Chiquita Classic in Charlotte and thought he was ready to retire and quit the game for good.
“I woke up and had no plans on going to the course on Friday,” he confessed, his passion for the game dwindling since the birth of his two young children.
“Those two reasons right there,” he said, pointing to his son and daughter, who were anxious to get to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in nearby Washington, D.C. “Golf’s just not that important but while you’re out here for five or six hours, it should be.”
His attitude got even better after spending the morning last week glued to television – specifically the Ryder Cup.
“I wound up watching and thought that’s good stuff,” he said. “So I showed up Friday. I played okay but while I’m here I might as well do it.”
Regaining a fire that has been missing and canning at least four birdie putts of 20 feet combined to put Gore in the lead as well as inspire him to loftier heights.
“After watching the Ryder Cup – I can’t believe I’m going to tell you this – but my goal is to make the team,” he said. “My goal is not just to get my Tour card or get back on Tour, I want to make that team. You’ve got to have some passion and go for it.”
Gore found himself transformed at Avenel Farm. He didn’t turn into the Incredible Hulk, but certainly a change from the happy-go-lucky Californian.
“Today I turned into the guy I hated,” he said, still smiling. “I was fist-pumping some shots. I got ticked off. I played with some passion and some emotion. Watching those Europeans and Americans go after it, I want to be part of it. You’ve got to set your goals high. It may not be attainable but you’ve got to go for it.”
A solid finish in the final four weeks will give Gore a return trip to the PGA TOUR if he can finish among THE-25 leading money winners when the season ends.
* Lift, clean and place conditions were in effect for the first round.
* This week’s Neediest Kids Championship is the 24th event of 27 on the 2012 Web.com Tour schedule.
* TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm underwent a $32M renovation, which began Aug. 13, 2007. The clubhouse reopened on July 22, 2008 and the golf course reopened for play on April 28, 2009. Prior to the renovation, the course measured 6.987 yards and played to a par-71. This week the players are playing a course that measures 7,139 yards and for a par of 70. Ben Curtis won the 2006 Booz-Allen Classic by five shots with a 20-under par score.
* John Kimbell (76) and Derek Fathauer (78) withdrew following the first round.
* There are now 10 players who have started all 24 tournaments this season: Alex Aragon (#24), Cliff Kresge (#34), Aaron Goldberg (#35), Tim Wilkinson (#52), Jeff Gove (#57), Derek Fathauer (#59), James Sacheck (#69), Brad Adamonis (#100), Oscar Serna (#106) and Ryan Armour (#108). Russell Henley started all 23 events but decided to take this week off after winning last week’s Chiquita Classic.
* Jason Gore’s 63 today is his third-lowest score on the Web.com Tour. Gore fired a 12-under 59 in the second round of the 2005 Cox Classic and had a 10-under 61 in the second round of the 2002 Gila River Golf Classic.
* Jason Gore’s 7-under score today matches his best first-round (vs. par) on the Web.com Tour. He has previously posted four scores of 7-under par.
* This is the first time in Jason Gore’s Web.com Tour career (159th start) he has held the outright lead after the opening 18 holes. Gore shared the first-round lead at the 1998 Ozarks Open, where he finished solo eighth. Gore is the Tour’s all-time victory leader with seven career titles. Gore has held the first-round lead once (2009 Arnold Palmer Invitational) and shared it twice (2005 84 LUMBER Classic, 2007 Frys.com Open) in 211 career starts on the PGA TOUR.
* 21 of the top-25 leading money winners are entered this week. The ones missing are: #9 Cameron Percy, #12 Russell Henley, #15 Shawn Stefani and #16 Andrew Svoboda. Henley was a playoff winner last week at the Chiquita Classic, his second career title.
For tournament and ticket info visit www.neediestkidschampionship.com.