Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat dropped two double bogeys en route to a level par 72 on Thursday which left him nine shots back of first round leader Trey Mullinax in the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance.
A topsy-turvy round at the Victoria National Golf Club saw him end the day in a share of 47th position and a projected 32nd place in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals rankings, where the top-25 after this week’s event earn PGA TOUR memberships.
Kiradech made an eagle on the par 5 15th hole and three other birdies but a pair of double bogeys on the par 3 11th hole and par 4 18th hole may yet prove costly as he seeks a quick return to the PGA TOUR after losing his status by finishing outside the top-125 of the FedExCup ranking. He needs a projected two-way tie of 17th place or better to regain his PGA TOUR card.
Korea’s Byeong Hun An, who has played on the PGA TOUR since 2016, carded a 71 with three birdies against two bogeys to share 35th position. After missing the cut in the first two Korn Ferry Tour Finals events, the Korean needs to finish in a two-way tie for fifth or better to have any chance of regaining his TOUR card.
Asia’s other hopefuls in this week’s field, Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira, Korea’s Seung-yul Noh and China’s Marty Zecheng Dou, all opened with 73s for tied 67th position. Kodaira is projected to need a two-tie of 16th or better, Noh a solo 10th or better and Dou a top-six or better to have any chance of securing their PGA TOUR cards.
Mullinax, meanwhile, shot a 9-under 63 and tied the Victoria National course record, putting him two strokes ahead of Tyson Alexander, and four strokes clear of the field on Thursday.
Mullinax carded one of three bogey-free rounds, with the last of his nine birdies coming via an approach inside of two feet at the par-4 17th. The University of Alabama alum birdied all four of the par 5s (Nos. 3, 9, 10, 15), as well as Nos. 1, 4, 7, and 12.
“The front nine I putted well,” Mullinax said. “My iron play was really, really good, the best it’s been all year. Had a lot of in-between numbers and didn’t try to hit soft shots. I was hitting more aggressive shots. I did a good job keeping it under the hole, keeping it in the right places and trying to make putts.”
- The Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance is the third and final event of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, a three-event series to determine the second set of 25 PGA TOUR cards given out for the upcoming 2021-22 season; the first set of 25 PGA TOUR cards was awarded to the top 25 points earners upon the conclusion of the 43-event 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour regular season three weeks ago in Omaha, Nebraska
- Trey Mullinax’s 9-under 63 tied the course record previously established by Chris Baker in 2019 and Sebastián Vázquez in 2016
- Mullinax’s 63 marked his lowest round since a 9-under 62 in the third round of the 2020 Orange County National Championship presented by Knight 39; he went on to win the tournament
- Dawie van der Walt made his second hole-in-one of the season (and first since the 2021 Club Car Championship at The Landings Club back in March) at the par-3 seventh
- Weather: sunny, high of 82 degrees, wind E/NE at 5-12 mph (gusts up to 15 mph)
- This year marks the 10th year of Korn Ferry Tour golf at Victoria National Golf Club; the venue hosted a regular season event from 2012 to 2018 before hosting the Tour’s flagship finale event beginning in 2019
- This week’s purse is $1,000,000, with $180,000 going to the champion; the champion will also receive 1,000 Korn Ferry Tour points
First-Round Course Statistics
- Toughest Hole – No. 16, Par 3, 208 yards (3.388)
- Easiest Hole – No. 15, Par 5, 548 yards (4.473)
- Scoring Average (Front 9) – 36.132
- Scoring Average (Back 9) – 36.388
- Scoring Average (Total) – 72.519