MEMPHIS, Tenn. » David Mathis is leading a PGA Tour event for the first time, and pressure is not one of his concerns.
His focus is on three more days of golf.
Mathis matched his best round ever on the PGA Tour, shooting a 5-under 65 Thursday to grab the lead at the St. Jude Classic. The 37-year-old North Carolina native is only in his second year on the PGA Tour and had to play his way back by finishing 13th on the Nationwide Tour money list last year.
He jumped to the top of the leaderboard late in the first round, finishing with six birdies and one late bogey. He hadn’t shot 65 on tour since 2009 when he went that low three different times.
“I don’t feel stressed or uncomfortable in the position,” Mathis said. “I know there’s tons of golf left. I’m just trying to keep poise about me I guess I would say while I play and recognize that, ’Hey, there’s lots of holes to play between now and Sunday,’ and so just take it for what it is. Be thankful for a good round and try to reproduce it for the next three days.”
Robert Karlsson, who lost a four-hole playoff here a year ago, shot a 66 and was tied with John Merrick, Kris Blanks, Colt Knost and Kevin Kisner. Knost had the only bogey-free round of the day.
Keegan Bradley and Fabian Gomez each had 67s. Bradley is among the few here who could play their way into the U.S. Open by winning at the TPC Southwind for a second tour victory since the last Open. Bradley won the Byron Nelson Championship two weeks ago.
Retief Goosen and Boo Weekley were among a group with 68s. Defending champion Lee Westwood opened with a 69.
Mathis turned pro in 1997 after leaving Campbell University. He started playing mini tours and was on the Canadian tour before switching to the Nationwide circuit. He first joined the PGA Tour in 2009 when he posted a pair of top-25 finishes, including a tie for 23rd in Memphis.
But he wound up back on the Nationwide Tour last year. St. Jude, sponsored by FedEx, is his 14th event on the PGA Tour this year and No. 45 for his career.
“Somebody asked me the other day, ’How long you been playing? Like 13 years or something like that?’ I was like, ’Really?” Mathis said. “So anyway obviously the time flies, but you know it’s been an enjoyable ride coming from that … makes me appreciate playing out here for sure.”
Mathis, who is from Winston-Salem, N.C., credited a visit with his coach Patrick Kelley this week for helping straighten out his line when putting. He noticed the difference almost immediately when he started on the back nine and rolled in a 9-footer to save par.
“That just kind of jump-started my day and you know just had some confidence,” Mathis said. “I was driving the ball in the fairway and hitting irons in spots I was looking to hit them and you know just added up to a 65 thankfully.”
Mindy Kim fires 64; Wie 72
Mindy Kim shot a career-low 64 to take a two-stroke lead after the first round lead of the LPGA State Farm Classic on Thursday in Springfield, Ill.
Sarah Kemp and Jiyai Shin were tied for second at 6 under at the Panther Creek Country Club. Brittany Lincicome, last week’s winner at the ShopRite Classic in Galloway Township, N.J., birdied the final hole to finish at 67 and in a tie for fourth with Yani Tseng and Juli Inkster.
Kim’s round featured birdies on Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 before a bogey on the par-4 9th for a 32 on the front nine. She matched in on the back stretch with birdies on 11, 12, 14 and 17.
“I did not expect this at all,” she said. “I hit the ball great today. I hit everything close. I think that’s what made (the round).”
Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer were in a large group at 4-under and defending champion Cristie Kerr was at 2 under. Honolulu’s Michelle Wie was at even-par 72. She had a steady round with one birdie and one bogey. Wie is tied 70th place.
Rock, Wood share lead
Robert Rock birdied his last five holes for an 8-under 64 to join fellow Englishman Chris Wood with the lead after the first round of the Italian Open on Thursday in Fiano, Italy.
Rock and Wood were one stroke ahead of Scott Jamieson of Scotland, Rafael Cabrera-Bello of Spain and Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark.