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Richy Werenski settles for 3-under 67 after first round at Travelers Championship

  • Richy Werenski tees off on the 11th hole during the first round of the Travelers Championship golf tournament at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn., on Thursday. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer
Published: 6/20/2019 7:48:25 PM
Modified: 6/20/2019 7:48:15 PM

CROMWELL, Conn. — Richy Werenski garnished start-to-finish consistency with occasional brilliance in the opening round of the Travelers Championship on Thursday.

The South Hadley native had four birdies and just one bogey among 13 pars at TPC River Highlands. That put him at 3 under with a 67 and tied for 25th along with 17 other golfers, including Phil Mickelson and Sam Saunders, Arnold’s Palmer’s grandson. Werenski managed a soggy day with occasional showers to post his best opening-round score in his third time playing the tournament.

“I don’t mind this kind of weather at all. It’s not cold, so that’s nice,” Werenski said. “That golf course, it’s what I’m used to seeing. It’s what I grew up on.”

With more putting luck, Werenski could be among the leaders. Ryan Armour, Bronson Burgoon, Kyoung-Hoon Lee, Abraham Ancer, Mackenzie Hughes and Zack Sucher each shot 64 to share the lead at 6 under. Werenski had four birdie putts lip out that he tapped in for pars.

“You always think about the ones you miss, the ones you mess up,” Werenski said. “At least that’s how I am.”

He began on the 10th hole with a sizable contingent of family and friends in tow. Werenski started the round with pars on No. 10 and No. 11 before notching his first birdie on No. 12. He hit his approach shot within 14 inches of the hole and tapped in to go to 1 under.

“It’s nice to get under par early,” Werenski said. “There’s so many birdies out on that golf course, even if you make a bogey, you’re going to have a lot more chances.”

Another birdie followed on No. 13 after he sank a 19-foot putt, his longest of the day.

Werenski had his only bogey of the round on No. 15. His tee shot landed way right and just above a retaining wall along the cart path. It nearly hit South Hadley High School golfers Billy Scott, Jared Waite and Logan Waite, who were watching in the gallery.

“It’s cool to see someone that came from the same place do so well,” Scott said. “It’s eye-opening to see how hard it is to get where they are.”

After a rules official inspected the lie, Werenski was able to drop the ball a club length away. He chipped into the primary rough, nearly rolling it up onto the green. His third shot landed 6 feet, 3 inches away from the hole, but Werenski missed the putt to drop back down to 1 under.

“You’re gonna get some good breaks, you’re gonna hit some bad breaks. That’s a sneaky tough pin,” Werenski said. “There’s a lot of birdies on this golf course. Even if you make a bogey you’re gonna have another chance.”

He quickly returned to 2 under with a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 17 then lipped out a birdie putt on No. 19 to make the turn still at 2 under.

Werenski started the front nine with six consecutive pars. None of his par putts were longer than 4 feet, 1 inch and averaged a little over 2 feet. He fired his second shot on the sixth over the gallery rope into the rough between the sixth and seventh holes, and on the walk over he briefly walked with his cousin, 4-year-old Kenley Alexander riding on the shoulders of his uncle, Don Alexander.

“You having fun?” Werenski asked her before lining up the shot, which landed 6 feet, 8 inches from the hole. The birdie putt lipped out, and he tapped in for par.

“I really don’t get to see my family up here as much as I would like. They come down to Florida a couple times a year,” said Werenski, who resides in Jupiter, Florida. “I love seeing them.”

His tee shot on No. 7 landed in the bunker, putting his standing in jeopardy. He blasted out 153 yards to the green, landing within 8 feet, 5 inches of the hole. Werenski sank the left-breaking putt to move to 3 under. At the time it tied him for 10th.

He carried the momentum to his tee shot on the par-3 eighth. Werenski stuck his shot 9 feet, 6 inches away, at the time the third closest shot to the pin. Unfortunately his putting woes struck again, and Werenski rolled his birdie putt around every part of the cup but not the bottom. He tapped in for par.

Werenski closed the round with a par on No. 9 after overshooting the hole on his approach and having to chip back onto the green. He tees off for the second round at 1:30 p.m. Friday with Charley Hoffman and Kiradech Aphibarnrat starting at No. 1.

“If I can have more putts drop, keep hitting the ball solid, this course isn’t very long. You can take advantage of it,” Werenski said. “I could have 8 under (Friday), Saturday. You never know what’s coming. I feel like some good’s going to happen.”

The South Hadley contingent following Werenski’s attention was torn throughout his round. Fellow former Tiger Chris Tallman, newly named general manager at Orchards Golf Club after spending time as the club pro and GM at Cold Spring Country Club, teed off 20 minutes after Werenski on the other side of the golf course.

It was Tallman’s PGA Tour debut. He qualified by winning the Connecticut Section PGA Stroke Play Championship.

Tallman shot an 8-over 78, buoyed by a double bogey and a triple bogey on the back nine.

“Obviously I’m not happy with how I finished with my score, but overall it was a great experience,” Tallman said. “There’s probably three shots I’d like back, errant tee shots that got me into trouble.”

He found an early birdie on the second hole. Tallman sank a 10 foot, 8 inch putt to get back to even after bogeying the first hole.

“That birdie settled me down a little bit and put me in a good spot,” Tallman said. “I was feeling good up until that 11th hole.”

Tallman bogeyed the par-3 fourth but made the turn at 1 over after nine holes. He double bogeyed No. 11 then followed it with two straight bogeys to go to 5 over. The triple bogey on No. 17 pushed him to 8 over.

Despite the challenging round, Tallman’s support in the gallery was strong. He had friends from home in his corner along with members from both Cold Spring and Orchards as well as his PGA Junior League team.

“When you’re not playing as well as you’d like to, you can get down on yourself,” Tallman said. “Just seeing them out there fired me up and kept my head in the game.”

Tallman likely won’t make the cut and play the weekend, but he still has one round of PGA Tour golf left before he begins his responsibilities at Orchards. He’ll tee off at 1:50 p.m. Friday from No. 10 with Kyle Jones and Chris Thompson.

“I don’t really have anything to lose, not that I did coming into this,” Tallman said. “Now I know what to expect. My nerves will be a little more in check. Just come out and have fun with it. It’s the Travelers Championship, just to get out here is a dream come true.”

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