Wittenberg fires 63 for News Sentinel Open lead

Casey Wittenberg matched the course record Thursday with an 8-under 63 to take the first-round lead of the News Sentinel Open.

Wittenberg's 63 equaled the mark originally established by Thomas Hagler IV in 2008 at Fox Den Country Club. That number was tied several times.

This is potentially a big week for Wittenberg, who is second on the Web.com Tour money list. After wins at the Louisiana Open and the Wichita Open, a victory this week would earn him an automatic promotion to the PGA Tour.

"It's one of those golf courses where you have to shoot low scores," said Wittenberg. "And I'm still going to have to go lower than this to get into contention."

Two-time U.S. Open winner Lee Janzen, Patrick Sheehan, Doug LaBelle II, Will MacKenzie, Alex Aragon and Kevin Foley are knotted in second place at 6-under 65.

Janzen had a front-row seat to Wittenberg's great play and he wasn't the only 2-time major champion. John Daly, who missed out on the PGA Tour Playoffs, rounded out the threesome.

"I played with two players with major championships under their belts which is something I would like to strive for in my golf career," said Wittenberg. "I have a long way to go to get to that point. They are great guys, and we had a good chat out there today."

The group started on the 10th tee Thursday and Wittenberg birdied two of his first three holes. He birdied three in a row from the 14th, then holed an 8- iron approach for eagle at No. 17.

"I was fortunate to have that ball go in on 17," admitted Wittenberg. "I hit a good shot, but got a good break as well. It was just one of those things."

Wittenberg struggled a bit to start his second nine. He bogeyed one, birdied two and bogeyed the third. He was 6-under on the round, but birdies at five and eight gave him the first-round lead and a share of the course record.

"I hit some great iron shots on my front nine," said Wittenberg. "I drove the ball in the fairway which set me up for some good chances to hit good approach shots."

NOTES: Daly shot a 1-under 70 on Thursday...Eleven players are tied for eighth place at 5-under 66...Eighty-seven golfers broke par in Thursday's opening round.