Journeyman Putnam goes low to set Humana pace

Thu Jan 22, 2015 8:01pm EST
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(Reuters) - The "light switch" clicked for journeyman Michael Putnam as he piled up nine birdies in his last 12 holes to seize a one-shot lead in Thursday's opening round of the $5.7 million Humana Challenge at La Quinta in California.

Still seeking his first victory on the PGA Tour, the 31-year-old American fired a sparkling nine-under-par 63 in ideal scoring conditions on the Jack Nicklaus Private course at PGA West, one of three venues hosting the pro-am event.

Putnam covered his back nine in a sizzling seven-under 29 to finish a picture-perfect day a stroke in front of compatriots Blake Adams, John Peterson, Scott Pinckney and 2012 champion Mark Wilson, and Italian Francesco Molinari.

Holder Patrick Reed, who won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii 10 days ago, launched his title defense with a 65 while twice former winner Phil Mickelson, playing his first competitive round since late September, carded a 71.

"It was like a light switch," Putnam told Golf Channel about the transformation in his game from the seventh hole onwards. "I said I needed to make some birdies, so I did.

"I played decently solid before that, just made a few mistakes to make bogeys, but I just lit it up coming in."

Putnam, a three-times champion on the lower-tier Tour who has never finished better than fourth in a PGA Tour event, was not planning to dwell on his opening round for long.

"You've kind of got to forget about it because we are playing a totally different golf course tomorrow ... so kind of put that out of my memory and now I am focused on the Palmer (course) for tomorrow," he said.

"There were a lot of low scores shooting out there too so you've still got to make birdies because 25, 27 under (par) wins this thing."   Continued...

Jul 27, 2014; Ile Bizard, Quebec, CAN; Michael Putnam tees off the 12th hole during the Final round of the RBC Canadian Open at Royal Montreal GC - Blue Course. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports