SAN ANTONIO (AP) – Matt Every arrived at the Texas Open having sworn off instructors, proudly cutting practices short and cringing at the sight of other players endlessly tweaking their swings.
His reward was a course record at a PGA Tour stop.
Outshining the few big PGA Tour names in a weakened field, Every made nine birdies in a bogey-free 9-under 63 for a three-stroke lead over Hunter Haas after the first round Thursday.
It was a career best on a notoriously unforgiving TPC San Antonio course that opened in 2010, but is partly blamed for why the tournament doesn’t attract more star power.
“I see the same guys tinkering with their swings, and they spend all day Tuesday and Wednesday practicing, and I think, `God, I’m glad I’m not one of these guys,”‘ Every said. “And I’m sticking to that. When I get on the course, I’m more interested in playing golf than my golf swing.”
Every, whose best finish in six years on the tour is third, coasted to his first lead since sharing the top spot entering the final round of the Sony Open in January. His wife, who is seven months pregnant, followed him for the entirety of a the record that broke the course mark of 64 set by Ryan Palmer and Scott Piercy in 2010.
“Told her, only wanted her to go to nine today,” Every said. “Said she had to keep going after the front nine. It’s cool.”
Haas finished with one of the round’s three eagles on the par-5 18th. Former British Open champion Ben Curtis, playing in his fourth PGA Tour event of the season after his status on the entry list plummeted near the bottom, was fourth strokes back at 67.
Fredrik Jacobson, Cameron Beckman, Jason Gore, Troy Matteson and Derek Lamely shot 68.
Haas shot a bogey-free round capped by a brilliant approach on No. 18, driving a 3-wood from the fairway to 5 feet. He has struggled this season, missing the cut six times and finishing no better than a tie for 37th in Mexico at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
“It’s nice to finish a round like that. It’s been a while,” Haas said.
Matt Kuchar, the tournament’s top-ranked player at No. 15 and two weeks removed form his near miss at the Masters, closed with a bogey on the par-4 ninth for a 70. Johnson Wagner had a 74 after speaking optimistically about taking advantage of the absence of star players in the field.
Defending champion Brendan Steele had a 73. He made a double bogey on the par-4 fourth.
The other star of last year’s Texas Open didn’t even make it past the first round. Kevin Na, who returned to San Antonio poking fun at his memorable 16 on No. 9, tapped in a 6-footer for par this time, but withdrew after signing his card at 7 over.
Every was more at ease with his front-runner status than the last time in Honolulu. There he looked uncomfortable while being asked about his arrest on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge in 2010 that resulted in a PGA Tour suspension his rookie season. He also attributed a tough night of sleep there to what he described as his first real time in contention.
After his round Thursday, a PGA Tour spokesman cautioned reporters that Every sometimes doesn’t ease into interviews as easily as other players. But the 28-year-old former Florida star was candid and carefree while discussing his love for the band Oasis and naming his first son Liam.
He only casually mentioned ditching his swing instructor two weeks ago and that he “doesn’t care anymore” whether his feet or toes lift off the ground when he swings.
“Lately I’ve been trying to do as little as possible with everything involved with golf,” Every said. “If I’m hitting bad in the range I won’t even work out — I’ll quit and go home. And it’s been working. It has. I’m playing better golf because of it.”
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