WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Robby Shelton’s first round of golf with his PGA Tour card isn’t one he’ll soon forget.
Shelton, a 24-year-old making his debut at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, carded an 8-under par 62 to hold the first-round lead Thursday.
“It’s the PGA Tour. It’s so much fun and what you look forward to your whole life,” Shelton said. “I knew my game was there and was super excited to see what it could hold up to.”
Shelton’s 62 gave him a two-shot advantage over defending champion Kevin Na, Mark Hubbard, Lanto Griffin, Zack Sucher and Scott Harrington.
Since the tournament began in 2010, however, no leader or co-leader through the first, second or third rounds has gone on to win at The Greenbrier.
Shelton, a former Alabama standout, was third on the Korn Ferry Tour points list last season. He won twice in May over a three-week span to earn his PGA Tour card this year.
“I’m trying to tell myself that it’s just golf. Through my sponsor exemptions (in the past), I thought I had to change my game to try and play with these big boys,” Shelton said. “Now I know it’s golf. I’ve been through the Mackenzie Tour and Korn Ferry Tour, so I know what my game has and if I can just get to that a lot sooner, that’s the goal.”
Playing the Old White TPC Course, Shelton started Thursday’s round on the back nine and made four birdies over his first eight holes. A bogey on the par-3 18th was his lone hiccup on the card, and Shelton rebounded nicely with birdies on Nos. 1, 2 and 3. Another birdie on the sixth hole got Shelton to 7-under, before he concluded the round with his ninth and final birdie from 5 feet on No. 9.
Shelton, who made eight starts on the PGA Tour as a non-member in the 2017 season, admitted he was eager to get going at The Greenbrier. It sure showed as he topped his previous career best round on tour by two shots.
“The round was solid. My swing felt a little shaky at first but I kept it in the middle,” Shelton said. “After I got my nerves calmed down, it was really good. The putter felt really good in my hands. I made a lot of the 9 and 10 footers and that’s what you have to do out here.”
Harrington shot 3-under on each nine of his opening round, finishing with seven birdies and a bogey on No. 16.
Hubbard, Na, Griffin and Sucher tied for the lowest round of those with tee times in the afternoon.
Hubbard began on the back nine and made four straight birdies from holes 11-14 en route to the bogey free 64.
Na, who won here last year at -19, recorded his lone bogey on No. 6 and made birdie on four of his final six holes.
Griffin made an eagle on the par-5 12th hole and ended his day with a birdie on No. 9.
Sucher started on the back nine and shot a 30, leaving him 6-under par at the turn. He also made a birdie on No. 9 to finish his day.
Ten golfers carded a 65, including Harold Varner III, Joaquin Niemann, Jimmy Walker and Brian Harman. They’re joined by Sung Kang, Sam Ryder, Scottie Scheffler, Bronson Burgoon, Doug Ghim and Rob Oppenheim at 5-under par.
“I really just want to have a chance to win, but if you think about that, you’re getting ahead of yourself,” Varner said. “When you do that, you’re not doing your job.”
Bryson DeChambeau, the highest-ranked golfer in the field at No. 10 in the world, carded a bogey free 68 in his opening round. He wasn’t overly pleased with his performance during prime scoring conditions.
”Because I wasn’t hitting my irons well, I was 40 feet away all day and I didn’t make very many putts,” DeChambeau said. “But I was putting very well and burned the edge on six or seven holes.
“It’s so disappointing what I did today, but I’m going to go out and work on what I can and get ready for tomorrow. It’s going to be dryer conditions tomorrow so hopefully that’ll be an advantage to me.”
Hank Lebioda played his first 11 holes in 7-under par, but followed with three straight bogeys that led to a 3-under 67.
Other notable first-round scores include: Sungjae Im (66), Keegan Bradley (67), Jason Dufner (67), Viktor Hovland (68), Bubba Watson (69), Zach Johnson (69), Jason Kokrak (69) and Scott Stallings (69).
Mark Leishman, the No. 24 ranked golfer in the world, withdrew due to a back injury after an opening round 76 left him in last place.
Kermit’s Davey Jude, one of two West Virginia natives in the field, shot an even par 70. Bridgeport’s Mason Williams signed for a 3-over 73. Williams played the front nine in 32 shots and finished his round with a birdie on the ninth hole.