Farmington • Nothing about the afternoon heat at Oakridge Country Club evoked images of surfing, but Cameron Champ likes the wave he’s riding.
The rookie has experienced his share of ups and downs on the Web.com Tour this season. His current trend is encouraging, with four straight top−10 finishes and a 10-under-par 61 in Thursday’s first round of the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank.
His coach's advice, as relayed by Champ: “When you're going up, just try to stay there as long as possible.”
His rise to No. 27 on th money list has been driven by a lot of low numbers lately, and the 61 tops them all. Champ is two strokes ahead of Luke Guthrie, Martin Trainer and Steven Ihm. Those players each made eight birdies.
Guthrie’s round “could have been lower,” he said, “if I would have made everything inside eight feet.”
Champ, who turned pro in November as a Texas A&M senior, matched the course record shot by Christian Brand in July’s second round and Jacques Blauuw in the third round. As he stood over a 15-foot eagle putt on the par−5 No. 15 (Oakridge’s nines are reversed this week), Champ had thoughts of “59.” He settled for a two-putt birdie, then added his 10th birdie of the day on the par−4 No. 16 and parred the last two holes.
Overall, scores were slightly higher than in last year’s opening round, when there were two 62s and 100 rounds in the 60s; there with 88 this year.
As for the four golfers with Utah ties, former BYU star Patrick Fishburn and Orem native Scott Pinckney shot 67s and are tied for 28th place. Sandy resident Mike Weir posted a 71 and Utah State product Seokwon Jeon had a 72. Those two will have to do something extraordinary Friday to make the 36-hole cut, which came at 6-under last summer.
Pinckney, a tour member who’s rebuilding his game after missing nearly a year with a back injury, made seven birdies and three bogeys. Fishburn, playing via a sponsor exemption, is in position for a top−25 finish that would get him into next week’s tournament. Otherwise, he will return to the Mackenize Tour in Canada.
“I hit the ball extremely well today; had a lot of opportunities,” Fishburn said, describing his 67 as “a decent score.” In his usual, aggressive style, the Ogden native used a club other than a driver only once among the 14 driving holes.
Champ took much the same approach in his first visit to Utah. Oakridge “suits me very well personally,” he said. “It's kind of a bomber's heaven, I guess you can say.”
Champ led last week’s tournament in New York with a first-round 64 before fading to a tie for eighth. The good news is that’s his worst finish in the past four events, with a well-timed surge. After this weekend, only five stops remain on the tour’s regular-season schedule before the first set of 25 cards will be awarded for the PGA Tour’s 2018–19 schedule.
“I would have never thought six weeks ago I’d be in this position,” Champ said.