Rocco Mediate used a late eagle to shoot a 7-under-par 65 and grab the first-round lead at the SAS Championship in Cary, N.C.
Not long after his second and final bogey of the day at the par-4 15th hole at Prestonwood Country Club, Mediate reached the green in two at the short par-5 17th and sank the ensuing eagle putt from roughly 15 feet.
That brought him to 7 under, which was enough for a one-shot lead over Y.E. Yang of South Korea.
Asked what was working for him, Mediate, who made seven birdies Friday, had a quick response: “Everything.”
“I drove a lot of good close short clubs today, a lot of clubs close to the hole early. Huge,” Mediate said. “Then I putted good. You have to. It has to work on days like today, so it did. I’ve been waiting for it to happen. Slowly but surely moving in that direction.”
Mediate, 59, hasn’t won on the PGA Tour Champions since the 2019 Sanford International.
“My daughter, my Francesca is like, when I talk to her every night, ‘Are you close to the lead, are you doing good?'” Mediate said. “It’s hard to say ‘not really’ … so I’m kind of pushing for her, so it’s kind of fun.”
Mediate and Yang were among those who praised the condition of the course.
“Very good course, good shape,” Yang said. “Greens, some greens very difficult and fast. Yeah, it’s good course.”
Yang birdied four holes on the front nine, went birdie-bogey at Nos. 13 and 14 and bounced back with birdies at the 16th and 17th holes.
The SAS Championship is the regular-season finale of the PGA Tour Champions season. The top 72 players in the standings will qualify for the first round of the Schwab Cup Playoffs.
Tom Gillis, who entered the week on the bubble at No. 68, put himself in good position to reach the playoffs by opening with a 5-under 67. He was alone in third after one round.
“I know where I’m at. I’m a long ways away from keeping full status (on tour),” Gillis said. “We really only have one option, that’s pretty much to win or really have two great, great weeks.”
Fred Couples, Jerry Kelly and Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie were part of a large tie for fourth at 4-under 68.
–Field Level Media