Jobe leads parade of low scores at Ally
Grand Blanc — As it turns out, a little local knowledge is good to have on the golf course.
That certainly was the case Friday in the first round of the inaugural Ally Challenge at Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club.
At a course where most in the field had played in the past when it hosted the Buick Open on the PGA Tour, the birdies were almost as plentiful in the 50-and-older Champions Tour event as they used to be on a layout that always was susceptible to giving up low scores.
Seventy of the 78 players in the field played in the Buick Open, including 10 who were champions. On Friday, it was Brandt Jobe that did the best at dusting off the memory and relying on his knowledge of the 7,127-yard layout.
Jobe fired a 7-under 65 to grab the early one-shot lead over Jeff Maggert, Esteban Toledo and three-time Buick Open champion Vijay Singh, who all shot 6-under 66.
“The course is good, it's in great shape. It's like we remem“There’s
ber,” Jobe said. “It's tight and running and it's getting good. If it gets a little firm, it's going to get even more difficult.
“It's been a while. There's a few trees missing, a few things are different. But yeah, I mean, it's kind of a friendly place. We all played here a bunch, so it's a great place. They support golf here unbelievably well and really nice for us to be here.”
Two shots back at 5-under was a group of players that included Tom Lehman, Lee Janzen, Paul Broadhurst, David Toms and David McKenzie.
“It felt like the same as it did 25 years ago,” said Maggert, who had two eagles in a three-hole span on the back nine. “I think if you put me out here in the fairway, I wouldn’t know the difference in time. The course is the same as it was. It’s a great course. The greens have always been some of the best greens we ever putted and that’s why you see a lot of low scores here.”
The low scores were reminiscent of so many Buick Opens in the past where birdies in bunches were required. Jobe had six, including three straight to open this round on the back side. He added an eagle at No. 16 to help offset one bogey.
It was a heck of a start for Jobe, the 53-year old who earned his first Champions Tour victory earlier this season but hadn’t played since the Senior British Open in late July.
“I've had a lot of weeks off,” Jobe said. “You always expect to come back a little rusty. Today was good, ball-striking was really good, made a few putts, but hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens and kind of made it easy on myself.”
It seemed nearly as easy for much of the field as more than half finished the red numbers.
After an eagle on No. 16, Maggert found himself tied for the lead. However, a bogey on No. 17 followed by a birdie putt left short on the 18th left him a shot behind Jobe.
“Some good things happened, some bad things happened, but overall I played pretty steady,” Maggert said. “I made a few bad swings today, so hopefully
first round in I can tighten that up a little on the weekend. But certainly two eagles and five birdies certainly counteracted some of the bad stuff.
“I knew there was going to be some low scores out here. I feel like I need to be on pace to shoot close to 20 under par, so I've got to come out tomorrow and keep making the birdies and hopefully sneak another eagle in or two.”
No player in the field likely has the local knowledge of Singh, a three-time winner of the Buick Open (1997, 2004, 2005). He hit just 13 of 18 greens in regulation but needed just 25 putts to finish at 66, his best score in a first round since the 2017 Senior PGA Championship.
“Drove the ball pretty good, I don't think I missed too many fairways,” Singh said. “If you drive the ball over here good, you're going to give yourself a lot of birdie opportunities. I putted well, too. I made some pretty nice birdie putts. If you drive it well and putt well, you're going to shoot a good number.”
Ally Challenge leader Brandt Jobe looks over a putt on the ninth green during his round of 7-under 65 at Warwick Hills on Friday.
Kenny Perry, left, looks over the shoulder of Vijay Singh while they watch Singh’s tee shot on the first hole during the Ally Challenge.