ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — Cole Hammer would have been happy with pars in the cold and wind off Sea Island. He ended up with more birdies than he envisioned Thursday for an 8-under 64 and the low scoring after one round of the RSM Classic.
“It was really cool to look at the top (of the leaderboard) and see my last name there,” Hammer said.
Coolness is literally applied to the field, with temperatures in the 50’s and an even colder feeling with the wind off the sea. This was a day for wool hats, long sleeves and mittens. As is usual in this tournament, this did not detract from the low number of points.
Hammer, who graduated from Texas in May, shared the low score with another longhorn grad, Beau Hossler, whose 6-under 64 came on the host Seaside course, which played about two shots harder to par.
“He makes me look average,” said Hossler as he completed his round and Hammer was already 8 under with three holes to play.
Hammer’s great run ended with a bad swing that sent him into the trees to the right of the par 5 eighth fairway. He took a penalty drop and ended up with a bogey.
England’s Callum Tarren also had a 64 in Seaside while Ben Griffin had a 7 under 65 on the Plantation course. Griffin had a big shot at winning down to a rough back nine three weeks ago in Bermuda. He could get another one at the last official PGA Tour event in 2022.
For Hammer, a good start was exactly what he needed.
He has been on big stages before and qualified for the US Open 2015 in Chambers Bay as a 15-year-old. He missed the cut.
He’s done well on a few Korn Ferry Tour starts after leaving Texas. The PGA Tour was a different matter as Hammer was trying too hard and getting too impatient. The result was six consecutive miscuts.
He thought he was heading for another at the Houston Open, his home tournament, last week when he opened with a 74.
“I missed my first six in a row. It was a pretty dark time,” Hammer said. “I felt my game was tight enough. I just put so much pressure on myself at the start of the tournament. I did it again in Houston and then came out with a 65 to make the cut.
“It really boosted my confidence.”
It carried over to the RSM Classic, where Hammer received a sponsorship exemption. He’s only on conditional status on the Korn Ferry Tour, so a good week could go a long way. Otherwise it’s Monday to qualify or write for sponsor exemptions.
“Hopefully my letter writing skills will be taken from my communications degree, which I just graduated in May,” he said.
Now he wants to see what he can do in the next three days.
Hossler is another player who first made his mark as a teenager at the US Open. That was 10 years ago at the Olympic Club, where at 17 he went into the finals just four shots from the lead. On the final day, he shot 76 and didn’t even make an amateur. That went to another Texas teenager – Jordan Spieth.
Hossler is now entering his sixth season on the PGA Tour and is still looking for his first win. The closest he came to was losing to Ian Poulter in a playoff at the Houston Open as a rookie.
Even more impressive than his 64 at Seaside in the cold and wind was keeping bogeys off his card by battling for pars four times.
“Even without wind and decent temperatures, it’s a tough course,” said Hossler. “Shooting the number I shot in these conditions was excellent.”
Webb Simpson had a 219-yard hole-in-one with a 4-hybrid at Plantation on his way to a 5-under 67. Harris English opened with a 4-under 68 at Plantation, a good start to an important week.
English missed five months due to hip surgery. He’s ranked No. 52 in the world, and a big week could help secure the top 50 for a Masters invite by the end of the year.
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