It could be called nothing but a rousing success, something that rarely has been written or said about a single round of golf that left a player at least 100 spots down the leaderboard. But NBA star Steph Curry’s 74 (4-over par) in the opening round of the Ellie Mae Classic on the Web.com Tour pressed all the right buttons. Not only did Curry test his dual-sport skills on arguably the second-best tour in the world, the world got to know a superstar athlete away from his familiar surroundings while seeing an event in California that the non-golf-geek public otherwise would not have known even existed.
Any score that started with a seven would have been a win, especially given that some predicted Curry would shoot mid- to high-80s or even 90. The fact that Curry had only five bogeys and one double proved his game is no joke. Throw in three birdies, including a 25-footer he drained for a deuce on the par-3 sixth (his 15th hole of the day) coming off his lone double bogey a hole before, and Curry exceeded expectations on all fronts.
His first tee shot with a 3-wood (on the par-4 10th) was so errant that the ball came to rest in the cup holder of a golf cart (video below). That moment was captured by more cameramen than were there to see Rory McIlroy tee off at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio.
“I felt good right up until they said, ‘From Alameda, California … ’ ” Curry said. “Then I couldn’t feel my hands.”
With Johnny West (son of NBA legend Jerry West) caddying for him, Curry steadied himself and made pars on Nos. 11 and 12, the latter of which earned him the honor in his group on the 13th tee, the first of a series of small victories.
Curry bogeyed 13 and 14, missing on a 4-footer for par on his fifth hole of the day, which had a lot of spectators wondering if the wheels might come off. But the two-time MVP from Golden State bounced back like a warrior, holing his first birdie at the par-5 15th.
— Web.com Tour (@WebDotComTour) August 3, 2017
From there, it was good-not-great golf – three pars to close out his first nine followed by two birdies, two bogeys and a double on the back. He didn’t set the world ablaze. But he didn’t embarrass himself, either.
In fact, he beat one of the pros in his group, Sam Ryder (no relation to Samuel Ryder of Ryder Cup fame), who shot 75. Ryder already has won on the Web.com Tour this year and his earnings to date ensure that he’ll have some PGA Tour status in 2018. Curry also posted a better opening-round number than such notables as Casey Wittenberg, Frank Lickliter II and Mathew Goggin.
There’s no doubt tournament organizers got the most bang from their exemption. Not only were the crowds at TPC Stonebrae larger than any previous first round, the Ellie Mae Classic – which most sports fans probably assumed was the title of a Beverly Hillbillies’ episode, pre-Curry – got coverage everywhere from ESPN and USA Today to CNN and Fox News.
“It’s good for the tournament and I’m excited for the turnout and for him,” Ryder said before the round. “This is his backyard. He’s a legend here.”
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