by doug ferguson ap golf writer
Six holes and six pars into the new PGA Tour season, frustration already was starting to build for Jeff Overton.
The seventh straight par made all the difference.
It was a putt from just inside 6 feet, but just seeing it go in the hole was all Overton needed to feel as though he couldn't miss. He holed a 25-foot putt on the next hole. After blasting a 3-wood from 244 yards on the green at the par-5 ninth, he made a 20-foot putt for eagle.
"I saw the ball go in the hole one time, and was just chipping and putting it in — just everything," Overton said. "It was just one of those that went my way at the end."
He closed out the opening round with two more birdies for a 7-under 64 on Thursday that gave him a one-shot lead over Brian Harman.
And so began a new and most different season on the PGA Tour.
For the first time in history, the tour is starting in October instead of January of the new year. The wraparound season, which will end next September at the Tour Championship to conclude the FedEx Cup, was brought about in part to keep the sponsorship of the fall events.
There will be a six-week break before 2014 and the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua.
Some players didn't get a break at all. Hideki Matsuyama, Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman all played in the Presidents Cup last week in rainy Ohio. Matsuyama, with a 70, was the only player to break par.
Instead of starting the year looking at a fairway some 80 yards wide at Kapalua — and playing in 80-degree temperatures in a tropical paradise — Bryce Molder wore rain pants to cope with the morning chill of California in October. It was barely 50 when he pulled his tee shot so far left of the fairway that he nearly didn't find the golf ball.
There were plenty of new faces at CordeValle. Tyron Aswegen had a 69 and Kevin Tway had a 70 among the eight rookies in the field.
There was a well-traveled American. Brooks Koepka started his year on the Challenge Tour, won three times to get his European Tour card and is playing the Frys.com Open before he heads to China to play a European Tour event. He also played a Web.com Tour event this year.
"Four tours," he said with a smile after finishing in near darkness. He also had a 4-under 67.
And while it was a good start for Overton, it felt like a new year to Robert Allenby. He bogeyed the 18th hole by trying to drive down the right side of the fairway. Winding up on the other side of the fairway to the left of the hazard, he was blocked by a tree and then fooled by the firm sand in a bunker.
It wasn't going to ruin his day. He shot 68. He broke par in the first round.
"I think it's the first time I've done that all year," Allenby said. That was true no matter what season he was talking about. The last time Allenby broke par in the opening round was the McGladrey Classic almost one year ago.
Nine players didn't make a birdie.
But the roughest start belonged to Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela. He made a quick detour to use the bathroom before his morning tee time, never realizing that he would be pressed for time. He sauntered over to the tee box 12 seconds past his deadline. Arriving late meant a two-shot penalty.
Vegas started his year attempting birdie from 412 yards away and his ball on a tee.
"I was just caught off guard," he said. "It never crossed my mind I would be late to the tee. I made a mistake and I paid the price. It's not an easy way to start the year"
He opened with a 76.
Overton, who remains the only American to play in the Ryder Cup without ever having won on the PGA Tour, had a year in which just about everything went wrong. He didn't play in any of the majors for the first time since 2007. He was disqualified from Colonial when he thought he could use a training aid to practice putting when there was a delay at the turn. He opened with a 69 in the John Deere Classic and had to withdraw when he felt shooting pain in his right wrist.
And he was the alternate who didn't get in the PGA Championship, leading to a series of angry tweets toward the PGA of America for not giving an exemption to a guy who played in the Ryder Cup at Wales three years earlier.
Overton said only that "everything is all good" when asked about his relationship with the PGA of America.
He hopes the same can be said about his game this year, especially after spending the last few months moving to a stronger grip to alleviate recurring pain in his left wrist. It worked beautifully on a sunny day in the foothills south of San Jose.