A Fan’s Guide: Friday’s storylines of the PCCC

Chase Johnson and Chip McDaniel carded matching 63s to earn a share of the lead after the first round of the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper. The duo lead six
players by one stroke entering the second round at Highland Springs Country Club.

The last time Johnson carded a 63, it was to rise to a runner-up finish during the final round at the 2020 TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes, effectively launching his career on the Korn Ferry Tour.

Those efforts came on a day when former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was the unquestioned draw of the tournament. You can read about his day here.

Johnson’s Day

Starting at the 10th, Johnson spread three birdies across his first eight holes, but hit the gas beginning at the par-5 18th. Johnson birdied six consecutive holes from Nos. 18-5 before closing with four pars for a 63.

“No. 11 was where I noticed the difference today,” reflected Johnson. “In previous starts when I would make a stupid mistake like that where you three-putt, I can normally feel the blood start to rush and get a little anxious. But I just kind of brushed it off. I did come in this week with the mindset to have more fun with it because you can’t play good golf if you’re stressed. That’s my mindset for the week, to enjoy it.”

Inside the top-10 in driving distance, Johnson’s length off the tee is consistently an advantage. But on Thursday, Johnson credited some early scrambling pars as the catalyst for his round.

“There was about a nine-footer for par on 14 that I made and a six-footer for par on 15 that I made,”
said Johnson. “Those par putts on my first nine kicked the momentum forward and then I made about a 25-footer for birdie on 16 after I hit the pin and it ricocheted back about 25 feet away.”

McDaniel’s opening round

While Johnson did his damage in the morning wave, McDaniel made his run late, competing in the
penultimate tee time of the day.

“I put a new putter in the bag and made a 20-footer on the first hole for eagle,” laughed McDaniel.
“That gave me some confidence and after that I just took it one shot at a time and tried to hit the center of the face…It was nice to see some go in.”

Both Johnson (102) and McDaniel (109) rank outside the top-100 in the season-long points standings with three tournament (including this one) remaining. The top-25 players in the standings earn PGA TOUR membership for the 2021-22 season, while the top-75 players retain their Korn Ferry Tour status in 2022.

“I definitely have to put the pedal down; it’s in the back of the mind for sure, but at this point I know what I have to do,” said McDaniel. “I just have to play really well. I have to get in contention and maybe close the deal. But it does me no good to put pressure on myself or think about it all the time. But it is in the back of my mind. It’s like Mike Miller said a couple of weeks ago, ‘You’re playing for your job.’ It’s nothing easy.”

McDaniel’s 63 also matches a career-best, tying an 8-under 63 in the second round of the 2021 Veritex Bank Championship.

Last year’s champ is lurking!

Six players sit one stroke off the lead, including defending tournament champion Max McGreevy and Roberto Diaz, who broke through earlier this year with his first win at the 2021 Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by MISTRAS.

McGreevy is back because the Korn Ferry Tour last year combined the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to the pandemic.

Poplar Bluff’s Carr Vernon

Carr Vernon had a following from Poplar Bluff, as the 2016 Mules graduate was playing on an unrestricted exemption. He fired a 4-under par 68 and finished in a tie for 47th.

He had five birdies and a bogey, and is playing thanks to a sponsorship from Sterling Bank. Several folks from Poplar Bluff, including bank leadership and high school athletic director Kent Keith, were on hand. More from southeast Missouri will make the drive over if Vernon makes the cut Friday.

And he is in good hands with his caddie, who happens to be his dad, Jimmy Vernon, the golf pro at Westwood Hills Country Club in Poplar Bluff.

…………………………….

The second round will run from 7 a.m. to 2:26 p.m. off of the first and 10th tees at Highland Springs Country Club.

First-Round Notes
• Thursday’s weather: Partly cloudy with a high of 88 degrees and wind S at 5-10 mph
• The Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper is the 18th event of 2021 and
the 41st (of 43) of the 2020-21 combined regular season; Johnson projects to move to 46th with
a victory while McDaniel projects to move to 52nd; just eight of 40 first-round leaders/co-leaders have gone on to win this season
• Defending champion Max McGreevy opened with a 64 to sit T3 after the first round as he looks
to become the first player in the Korn Ferry Tour’s 32-year history to successfully defend his
title; five players have finished runner-up as they attempt to defend their title (most recent:
Lanto Griffin/2018 Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation)
• Roberto Diaz (-8, T3) is squarely on the bubble of the top 25 players in the regular season points
standings with three events remaining; Diaz entered the week 23rd with 1,375 points
• With a two-way T3 or better, Seth Reeves (-7, T9) would pass the threshold of 1,650 points that
the Korn Ferry Tour is currently using as its fail-safe number to guarantee a finish inside the top25 at the conclusion and earn a PGA TOUR card
• Carr Vernon, an exemption from Poplar Bluff, Missouri (three hours away), opened with a 4-
under 68 (T47)
• Kevin Roy (E, T119) aced the sixth hole with an 8-iron from 175 yards
• Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current NFL on CBS analyst Tony Romo carded an evenpar 72 and sits T119 after the first round
• This week’s purse is $600,000 with $108,000 going to the champion; the champion will also
receive 500 Korn Ferry Tour points• The combined 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour schedule will conclude with 25 PGA TOUR card

— Story courtesy of Korn Ferry Tour

Tony Romo fires solid round in PCCC opening day

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo drew the crowds in his grand return to the Ozarks on Thursday, interacting with spectators even during his round before gladly signing autographs and posing for selfies afterward.

Yet now comes the challenge: Can he make the cut and advance to the weekend of the PGA Korn Ferry Tour’s Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper?

Romo fired an even-par 72 on the opening day of the 32nd annual PCCC at Highland Springs Country Club, where he threatened to sink several birdies before putts seemed allergic to the cup. He’ll need those Friday in a tournament that traditionally sees its weekend groups going on birdie binges.

For instance, morning round leader Chase Johnson finished at 9-under par 63 thanks to birdying half the 18  holes.

Still …

“It’s fun having (spectators) around. The support was great today, and you could feel the energy if you made a good putt or hit a good shot,” said Romo, who drew a following of roughly 60 fans after he began his round on No. 10.

He won them over early. On the par-5 No. 11, he rallied to make par after his tee shot flew left into the left-side trees and his second approach sliced into trees on the right side of the fairway. After sinking his putt, he turned to the crowd and said, “It looked like a 5 all the way.”

On the par-5 No. 8, he reached the green in two shots thanks to using a 3-wood on his drive and approach and told the gallery, “It looked like you needed some excitement.”

Still, Romo expressed frustration, saying that he should have carded a 68. He birdied two holes and bogeyed twice (3, 6), but left some birdies out there. Four putts on his first nine holes – they were roughly 12-, 17-, 20 and 15-yard yard attempts – were just short of the cup.

“I did a lot of good things. I was 2-under going into my 12th hole on No. 3, and hit a really big drive,” Romo said, explaining he was about 66 yards from the cup on the par-4 before his approach landed on the other side of the green, on a slope.

“I was sitting there perfect, and then hit it a little too aggressively. That’s the one right there that I thought I could have gotten to a 3.”

Romo’s appearance came a year after he played four holes and then withdrew after experiencing pain in his left wrist. After Thursday’s round, he said he ultimately had a hamate bone surgically removed after last year’s PCCC.

The weekend?

“I’m excited about (Friday). I think I can shoot a pretty low number. Today was a little about getting over the nerves,” said Romo, who is playing on an unrestricted exemption. “It’s doable. Sometimes, the swing, just the momentum of it, will get you going. Today, I didn’t take advantage of some of the opportunities.”

Meanwhile, Johnson was the leader after Thursday’s  morning round. He birdied Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 12, 16 and 18.