Lake Buena Vista, FL – Charlie Wi fired an 8-under 64 on Thursday to take a 1-stroke lead after the opening round of the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic, the final official event of the year for the PGA Tour.
Wi, who has his tour card wrapped up for next year, has three top-3 finishes this season. Several of his chasers are outside the top 125 on the money list and need to get inside that number to secure their card for next year.
Tommy Gainey and Camilo Villegas, No. 150 on the money list, share second place at minus-7
Brian Harman and Scott Stallings both carded 6-under 66s and are tied for fourth with Russell Knox, who is No. 156 on the money list.
Five players share seventh at minus-5. The top-12 players on the leaderboard all played on the Palm Course at Walt Disney World Resort.
Charles Howell III was one of five golfers to shoot 4-under 68 on the Magnolia Course at Walt Disney World Resort.
Magnolia played harder in the first round, and will host the final two rounds after players play one round apiece on the two courses, while playing with amateur partners.
Wi started on No. 1 on the Palm Course and converted a birdie chance on his first hole. After three straight pars, he dropped in back-to-back birdie chances at five and six.
The 40-year-old then eagled the par-5 seventh from 15 feet out. Wi birdied the ninth to make the turn at minus-6. After a birdie on the par-5 11th, Wi had an outside chance at shooting 59.
Those thoughts were quickly dashed as he bogeyed the 12th. Wi traded a birdie for a bogey from the 14th. He closed his round in style as he birdied the 17th and 18th.
"The Palm Course is a course where you need to score and all the par-5s are reachable, so I felt like I took advantage of them really well, and what really got me going today was that eagle putt on No. 7," Wi stated. "I felt like I had something special going today. But other than that, I know the scores are low out there, and I'm very pleased with 8-under today."
Gainey, who won his first PGA Tour title three weeks ago at The McGladrey Classic, started on the back nine on the Palm Course. He birdied the 13th and came right back with an eagle on the 14th.
He stumbled to a bogey on the par-3 16th, but erased that mistake with a birdie at the 17th. Around the turn, Gainey converted back-to-back birdie efforts from the first and again from the seventh to move to 7-under. He parred his last to end there.
"Today I had some wedges that I was looking forward to making birdie with, but caught some gusts and it kind of threw me off track a little bit. But I'm pretty happy with 7-under. I'm just glad I'm finished. Those guys can have it right now," said Gainey, who played in the morning wave.
Villegas, a 3-time PGA Tour winner, has just three top-10 finishes this year on PGA Tour. He stumbled to a bogey on the 10th, but caught fire soon after.
The Colombian poured in four straight birdies from the 13th. After three pars in a row around the turn, Villegas birdied the third to move to 4-under. He ran off three consecutive birdies from the sixth to gain a share of second.
"I was very patient today. You know, it was cold for a Colombian out there the first few holes," said Villegas, who was three groups behind Gainey. "And then it heat up a little bit. I made some great long putts and just kept it going."
NOTES: Billy Mayfair entered the event as the bubble boy, No. 125 on the money list. He opened with an even-par 72, which projects him outside the top 125 after four rounds ... Wi has the first-round lead for the third time this season, but only five of 43 first-round leaders have won this year ... The Magnolia Course (72.406) was nearly two strokes harder than the Palm Course (70.625) ... Of the six former champions in the field, only Robert Garrigus (68, T-10) is within five of the leaders.