WIDEGREN LEADS THE JUNIOR PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP WITH 4-UNDER-PAR 68
Three tied at 2-under-par, two strokes back
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Pontus Widegren of Danderyd, Sweden, fired a 4-under-par 68 at TPC Sawgrass — THE PLAYERS Stadium Course Friday to lead after the first round of The Junior PLAYERS Championship. He leads by two over Josh Jones of The Colony, Texas, Sam Smith of Turlock, Calif., and Taylor Travis of Fremont, Calif., who posted 2-under-par 70s.
The PGA TOUR, in cooperation with the American Junior Golf Association, brought 78 players from 19 states and 15 foreign countries to TPC Sawgrass for a special junior golf experience. The Junior PLAYERS Championship, mirrored after THE PLAYERS, is being played on the par-72 THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. The course is setup at 7,215 yards, the same as the PGA TOUR event that brings together the deepest tournament field in professional golf. Tournament participants are furnished with professional caddies, access to the TOUR locker room and tournament gifts that give this event a PGA TOUR-like feel.
Playing the course for the third time after two practice rounds, Widegren set a torrid pace for the field early by making a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 second, a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 third, and a six-foot birdie putt on the par-4 fourth. Five consecutive pars later, Widegren made the turn with a 32 and a lead he would never relinquish. Small hiccups on Nos. 10 and 13 that led to bogeys were side-stepped with closing birdies on Nos. 14 and 17. After his 15-foot birdie putt lipped out on No. 18, Widegren made par and was more than content with a back-nine 36 and an opening round 68.
“I was just trying to break par,” he said. “You have to keep your shots where you should keep them in order to score — and that's what I did.”
Widegren, who attends the same high school that PGA TOUR player Jesper Parnevik did, admitted to only knowing the course through what he saw on television during THE PLAYERS. In fact, to get a little more practice after receiving the invitation, he played the course through a video game on a friend's Xbox.
“It's an amazing atmosphere, even without the grandstands,” he said after seeing the course in person. “You can feel all the history as you walk the course.”
Jones, Smith, and Travis all carded 2-under-par 70s to land themselves in a tie for second. Both Jones and Smith had rounds that included five birdies and three bogeys while Travis aced the 184-yard, par-3 third with a 7-iron. He finished with this hole-in-one, five birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey.
Brooks Koepka of Wellington, Fla., Dean O'Riley of Boksburg, South Africa, Morgan Hoffmann of Saddlebrook, N.J., and Anders Kristiansen of Hafslundsoy, Norway, are tied for fifth at 1-under-par 71.
Second-round action will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday off the first and 10th tees of The PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. The leader group of Widegren, Jones and Smith will tee off No. 1 at 9:48 a.m.
For more information about The Junior PLAYERS Championship, contact Steve Ethun with AJGA Communications at (678) 571-7994.
About the PGA TOUR
The PGA TOUR is a tax-exempt membership organization of professional golfers. Its primary purpose is to provide competitive earnings opportunities for past, current and future members of the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour; to protect the integrity of the game; and to help grow the reach of the game in the U.S. and around the world.
In 2007, the three Tours will compete in approximately 110 events for approximately $340 million in prize money. Tournaments are being held in six countries outside the U.S. and in 36 states.
In addition to providing competitive opportunities for its membership, TOUR events also generate significant funds for local charities. In fact, the three Tours have surpassed the $1 billion mark in overall charitable contributions. The PGA TOUR's web site address is www.pgatour.com and the company is headquartered in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL.
About the American Junior Golf Association
The American Junior Golf Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the overall growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. The AJGA, the largest Association of its kind, has a junior membership (boys and girls ages 12-18) of approximately 5,000 junior golfers from 50 states and 30 foreign countries.
AJGA alumni have risen to the top of amateur, collegiate and professional golf. More than 160 former AJGA juniors currently play on the PGA and LPGA Tours and have compiled more than 300 wins. AJGA alumni include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Cristie Kerr, Pat Hurst, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Julieta Granada.