AUBURN, Alabama — Both Alex Smalley and Mac Meissner played their A-Games Wednesday morning, opening 10 under 62 seconds to finish first at the Auburn University Club Invitational. The duo is three strokes better than the closest competition. Both Smalley and Meissner also tied off in the morning wave, finished their 18 holes around noon and set the bar so high that no one could top them in this afternoon wave.
The entire field did not finish the first round game as a storm interrupted the game earlier in the day and darkness set in before all groups were finished. Players will continue their first rounds on Thursday at 7:10 a.m.
Smalley is no stranger to success at the Auburn University Club. A year ago, in September 2020, he put together rounds of 66-63-72 to finish fourth in the LOCALiQ series. Today, however, Smalley continued the solid game he had taken over from last week with his mother as a caddy.
Smalley underperformed in all four rounds of the Forme Tour’s L&J Golf Championship last week, finishing fifth with four others with a 275 (67-70-70-68). He then traveled straight to Detroit to qualify for the PGA TOUR’s Rocket Mortgage Classic on Monday.
“I played pretty well there,” said Smalley. “I shot 4-under and missed the playoff by one. I was close. I knew I was playing well and disappointed that I came up short. Today everything seemed to be going right. I had a couple of lucky strikes on the front (nine), a shot that would go 15 or 20 feet, and it hit the flag and walked one foot.
“At the L&J Golf Championship I had a lot of putts that didn’t go in. Today they all went in, ”he added. “I’ve played golf every day since the Jennings Mill training session, so it’s probably been seven or eight days in a row now. Maybe I’m so tired I don’t care where the ball goes. I can’t say exactly what I did differently! “
Meissner was disappointed with how he did last week when he finished 71st in Georgia. He admits that he wasn’t happy with the outcome of the first Forme Tour event.
“I didn’t play well last week – a couple of my friends beat me – so I really wanted to come back and take some revenge on them this week,” said Meissner. “I’ve been working pretty hard on my swing the last few days and doing a lot of mirror work, things like that. I felt a lot more comfortable out there, especially on the soft fairways. I’m definitely off to a good start. “
Just three shots behind, five more follow – the Americans Clay Feagler, Alex Schaake, Jake Johnson, the German Lukas Euler and the Canadian Jared du Toit – all of them shoot an impressive 7-under-65s. In addition, seven more ended the day with a 66, which will make for an interesting second round Thursday.
Did you know Alex Smalley’s 62nd shot in Wednesday’s opening round isn’t his career-low on a PGA TOUR-affiliated tour? A year ago at the LOCALiQ Series Classic at Callaway Gardens, Smalley shot 60 in the second round of the 54-hole tournament on the way to a tie for ninth place. Smalley also had a pair of 63s, including a year ago on that course, also in the second round.
• The field started with 156 players from 14 different countries or territories and will be reduced to 60 players and ties after the second round.
• This is the fourth PGA TOUR affiliated tour Alex Smalley has played in the past 13 months. His best result in seven LOCALiQ Series starts in summer 2020 was a third place at the Alpharetta Classic outside of Atlanta. Smalley has also competed in two PGA TOUR tournaments, finishing 22nd in the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in March. He missed the cut on the Korn Ferry Tour Challenge at TPC Sawgrass in June 2020, and the Duke University graduate finished fifth in the opening event of the Forme Tour, the L&J Golf Championship at Jennings Mill Country Club, last week.
• Although he did not birdie all four par-5s of the Auburn University Club, Alex Smalley was still down by 4 on those holes on Wednesday. He screwed numbers 4 and 12 with the birdies, had a par on 16th but with an eagle in 17th place.
• Mac Meissner is not the only member of his family who plays well on one of the PGA TOUR tours. A week ago at the Banco del Pacifico Open on the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica, Mitchell Meissner, Mac’s older brother, opened with three under-70s in Quito, Ecuador, then finished eighth with a 71 to a tie. The older Meissner is currently in 38th place on the 2020-21 points list, after being in 53rd place in 2019.
• Trevor Werbylo, who lost a playoff in Georgia last week, continued constant play in the first round, shooting a 4-under 68 that included a double bogey on his final hole.
• Samuel Saunders defeated Trevor Werbylo in a one-hole playoff last week to win the first Forme Tour tournament. Saunders opened his tournament this week with a straight par 72 and is tied at 111th place up to 18 holes.
• Philip Knowles, Mikel Martinson and Lukas Euler’s threesome had a solid day at the Auburn University Club. Euler made seven birdies and an eagle to go with two bogeys on his way to 7-under 65. Martinson and Knowles were both 5-under, each with only one bogey on their cards. On the incomplete ranking list, Euler is in third place, while Knowles and Martinson share 15th place.
• Clay Feagler has underperformed in his first five official Forme Tour rounds, including opening Wednesday at 7 under 65. At the L&J Golf Championship last week at Jennings Mill Country Club, Feagler, a member of the Pepperdine National 2021 Championship team , which ranks fifth in Georgia, thanks to rounds of 71-78-69-67 on the par-72 course. Feagler received his Forme Tour membership as a medalist at the Arizona Qualifier in April. Given his current trend, it’s not surprising that the Californian native had three laps below par in the wigwam this week to start with a straight par 72.
• Turk Pettit, a licensed sponsor native of Auburn, performed well on his Forme Tour debut. The former Clemson Tiger, the 2021 NCAA individual champion, who has just finished college, opened in 5th place with a 6-under 66 on the strength of seven birdies, again a bogey.
• The Forme Tour will host eight tournaments in seven states between June and October, and at the end of the season the leader of the official scoreboard will be recognized as Player of the Year and will be a full member of the Korn Ferry Tour 2022. Players finishing two through five will have conditional status, while six to ten qualify for the final leg of the Korn Ferry Tour, and those finishing 11th to 25th on the points list will be invited to the second leg of the Korn Ferry Tour. The top 60 players on the season points list will retain their membership and will be excluded for the Forme Tour 2022 season.
• Players can qualify for the Forme Tour in many different ways, including being the top scorer on the PGA TOUR Canada or China scoring lists, qualifying for three qualifying tournaments in 2020 or for the seven qualifying tournaments in 2021 and for the PGA TOUR University rankings , Open qualifiers or exceptions from sponsors.
“The course was pretty vulnerable. I hit a lot of fairways and most of the time I left under the hole where you want to be out here. The greens are pretty steep, so when you go uphill it is definitely much easier to achieve – especially when you bring it into play. ”- Mac Meissner
“I was able to play a few training rounds with some of my fellow students. It was really nice to have these guys out here and to help me feel a little more comfortable for sure. ”- Mac Meissner
“I had a couple of tees that I wasn’t happy with at the beginning, a couple of times I was lucky. I hit the cart track at a hole and in the trees. I had a gap (to punch through) and I ended up doing a birdie on that hole. ”- Alex Smalley
“My mother has caddy for me today and for the qualification on Monday. She did a caddy for me at Jennings Mill last week. It’s also nice to travel with someone. It makes it a little easier. –Alex Smalley
“I played terrible last week and got cut, but that allowed me to go home and hang out with my wife. She gave birth to our first child on Monday night – a girl we named Charlie Joy. Of course we wish the circumstances were a little different. It worked out pretty well in the end, and my wife Shalyn is very understanding. I would say she is perfect, but she would get a big head. ”- Blake Sattler
“I felt great out there. I got off to a bumpy start and failed the first time. But I got the putter working and made some good shots. I did eagle on seven and birdies on nine, 11 and 13 so that the lap really got going. Everyone in our group had a great day. I made seven birdies and an eagle, Philip (Knowles) made six birdies, and I don’t even know how many birdies Mikel (Martinson) made. Maybe seven or eight. It was fantastic. We got everything going and had a good swing. ”- Lukas Euler
“You know, I was a bit disappointed, I did a double bogey on my last hole, it was frustrating. But by and large I played pretty well today. My score could definitely have been a little lower, but it’s nice to take some of the momentum from last week into this week. Overall, it’s a good start. ”- Trevor Werbylo
Weather in the first lap:
Partly cloudy and warm with occasional showers. The officials stopped the game for 1:05 because of a dangerous weather situation. The game resumed at 5:50 am, with the officials finally pausing the game at 8:45 pm. High of 82, with ESE winds at 3-5 mph.