Playa del Carmen, Mexico (SportsNetwork.com) - Will MacKenzie, Robert Garrigus, Steve Wheatcroft, Hudson Swafford, Tony Finau and Daniel Berger all fired first-round, 6-under 65s on Thursday and they are tied for the lead at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
Out of the six players tied for the lead, only MacKenzie has multiple wins on the PGA Tour with two. Garrigus and Swafford both have one victory each, while Wheatcroft, Finau and Berger are seeking their first wins on tour.
It is anyone's game after one round as there are 14 players within one shot of the lead. Pat Perez, Davis Love III, Brian Harman, Jason Kokrak, Brice Garnett, Shawn Stefani, Alex Cejka, Michael Putnam, Chad Collins, Jason Bohn, Charley Hoffman, Aaron Baddeley, Danny Lee and Blayne Barber are all tied for seventh after 5-under 66s at El Camaleon Golf Course.
Defending champion Harris English is tied for 21st with eight others following a 4-under 67 on Thursday.
MacKenzie did not make too much of a move up the leaderboard on the front nine, but he got the job done on his closing nine. After beginning the day with four straight pars, MacKenzie drained two birdies in a three-hole stretch at five and seven to get into red numbers for the day. He closed out his front nine with a pair of pars.
Following another pair of pars on 10 and 11, MacKenzie made his move with birdies on 12 and 14 to go along with a big eagle on the par-5 13th hole. The stretch got MacKenzie to minus-6. A bogey on 16 was a slight miscue for MacKenzie, but he responded with a birdie on 17 and closed out his round with a par on 18.
"I had a pretty good number in there, like 223 so I was trying to hit 4-iron a little down wind, came out of it a little bit, but you know it's a small green and hit it about 25, 30 feet and just made a bomb," MacKenzie said about his eagle on the par-5 13th. "That kind of really just got things going for me."
Garrigus was up and down to start his round as he traded bogeys on one and three with birdies on two and four. After a par on five, Garrigus got into red numbers for the first time with back-to-back birdies on six and seven before closing out his front nine with two pars.
A birdie on 11 and a bogey on 12 had Garrigus right back to minus-2, but like MacKenzie, Garrigus drained an eagle on No. 13, which really seemed to kick- start his round as well. Garrigus followed up the eagle with two more gains on 15 and 16. He finished up with a trio of pars to end tied atop the leaderboard.
"It was putting. I hit a couple of really good shots on the par-5s," Garrigus said. "It was fun to get off to a good start. I rolled it well today and hit it well, so it was nice."
Wheatcroft, beginning the day on the back nine, started off with a par on 10 before draining a birdie on No. 11. Following a string of five straight pars, Wheatcroft ended his front nine with a pair of gains on 17 and 18.
It was more of the same on the closing nine for Wheatcroft as he made three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 3 and he finished with three pars from seven to complete his bogey-free day.
Swafford had a very strong front nine, which featured birdies on three, five, seven and eight to get him to minus-4 early. Swafford's lone dropped shot came on No. 12 where he tripped to a bogey, but it was smooth sailing from there as he closed things out with birdies on 14, 15 and 18.
Playing the back nine first, Finau was over par through three holes after tripping to a bogey on 12, but he was able to rebound right away with a birdie on 13. Two more gains on 16 and 18 had Finau in red numbers at 2-under as he made the turn.
Finau kept the momentum going when he drained three straight birdies from No. 1 to make it four gains in a row. Finau's second bogey on five dropped him back to minus-4, but birdies on seven and nine propelled him into a share of the lead.
"It's early on, first round, but it's nice to get off to a good start," said Finau. "I hit my irons really well all day today, so it was nice to finish that way."
Berger joined Wheatcroft as the only two leaders to go bogey-free on Thursday. Also starting on the back nine, Berger wrapped eight pars around a birdie on the par-5 13th.
Berger exploded on his finishing nine when he ripped off five birdies in a seven-hole stretch from No. 1, getting him to 6-under. A pair of pars on eight and nine saw Berger finish there.
NOTES: MacKenzie's last win came at the 2008 Viking Classic. MacKenzie also finished tied for second at The McGladrey Classic in October ... Garrigus' lone win came at the 2010 Children's Miracle Network Classic, while Swafford's victory was at the 2012 Stadion Classic at UGA ... Charlie Beljan withdrew during his first round ... Of the 132 players in the field, only 33 finished the first round over par ... John Huh, who carded a 2-under 69 and is tied for 45th, made a hole-in-one on the par-3 15th hole.