BARRINGTON — Matt Kuchar admitted he felt a little beat up after finishing in a five-way tie for 14th at the U.S. Open this past weekend.
But the 33-year-old PGA veteran still had plenty left in the tank to team with playing partner Zach Johnson to manufacture enough good shots to take the first-round lead at CVS/Caremark Charity Classic on Monday.
Kuchar's 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th enabled the tandem to finish with a 13-under 58, good for a one-shot advantage over defending champions J.B. Holmes and Ricky Barnes in the 36-hole, best-ball event, held under beautiful conditions at Rhode Island Country Club. LPGA star Morgan Pressel and Davis Love III stand alone at third with a 60, while Gary Woodland and tourney co-host Brad Faxon, seeking his first win in the 13-year history, is tied with Camillo Villegas for fourth at 62.
“It was a pretty solid team effort,” Kuchar said.
“It was good,” Johnson added. “We kind of ham and egged it out there. I think the key to this tournament is you have to give yourself two good opportunities.”
Kuchar, a second-place finisher in 2009 with Juli Inkster, and Johnson, a runner-up with Faxon in 2007, got off to a hot start with a six-under 29 after the first nine holes, including a string of four straight birdies from holes six to nine. The duo got to 10-under by the 13th hole and finished the final four holes at four under to tie the first-round scoring record with Faxon-Gary Player and Dudley Hart-Tim Herron set in 2001.
“Zach pretty much led the group at the start,” Kuchar said. “I filled in [later] and had birdies on 17 and 18.”
Holmes and Barnes, who won last year's event at 21-under 121, also sizzled on the front nine with a 29. Standing one-under after the first two holes, the pair strung together six straight birdies before paring the ninth hole.
'We got off to a good start and just fed off each other,” Barnes said. “I kind of cooled off [after the first nine] and JB picked it up. We played a solid round, a lot of chances. If we keep going like this we can give ourselves another chance to win.”
“We played pretty good overall,” Holmes said. “We had a good day.”
Faxon, a runner-up five times at CVS, was solid on his home course. He also benefited from having a gifted partner in Woodland, a talented four-year pro who won the Transitions Championship in March and finished tied for 30th at the U.S. Open.
“It was a fun day,” he said. “[Woodland] is a good, young player with explosive power. He played very well over the weekend and he's only going to get better. We teamed well. I played well on the front nine and he played well on the back nine.”