If anything, Monday’s qualifier for the FBR Open at Gainey Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale confirmed two long-time adages about the PGA Tour. First, you can’t beat experience. Second, beware of the ailing golfer.
Veteran Alex Cejka, who splits time between homes in Germany and Bullhead City, set the pace on this day with a sizzling, 10-under 62. Not bad for a guy who was so sick last week that he spent four days in bed with the flu.
“I had a fever of 150 (degrees),’’ reported Cejka, who got 150 degrees lost in translation with 105 degrees. “I finally got out of bed Friday, and then I played a practice round here (Sunday). My ball-striking was awful. …
“This was my first competitive round this year, and I figure if 62 can’t make it, well, I played as well as I could.’’
Cejka’s 10 birdies, which included five in a row to jump-start his round, came without a bogey and was one shot off the course record. Who knows, it might have tied the mark as the 61 reportedly shot by a well-known pro over a decade ago never has been confirmed, said Gainey’s director of golf, Jim Murphy.
Securing another of the three spots up for grabs was Tommy Armour III, the 1990 Phoenix Open champ who posted 63. The grandson of the legendary “Silver Scot” of the same name, Amour also was a birdie machine, holing nine of them.
“Any time I shoot 63, I feel good about it,” said Armour, who finished tied for 17th at the recent Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and 60th at last week’s Buick Invitational.
Gaining the third spot also with a 63 was Canadian Jim Rutledge, who at age 47 is the PGA Tour’s oldest rookie this season. But Rutledge, whose card included two eagles, also is long on experience, having posted wins over the past 20 years on the Nationwide, Canadian, European and Asian tours.
For the most part, the 86 players who attempted to qualify Monday shot lights out. That included a group of talented teenagers from the East Valley.
Heading the youth movement was Cameron Edens, an 18-year-old senior at Mountain Pointe High School. Edens fired a 66 that included seven birdies to offset a lone bogey.
Also playing well but coming up short was Philip Francis, a 17-year-old from Scottsdale bound for UCLA. The reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champ birdied his 10th hole to get to 6 under before making a bogey coming in.
Among the other teens competing: Andrew Yun of Gilbert shot 68; Chandler’s Richard Lee 73; and Scottsdale’s Drew Kittleson 73 and Ben Choe 75.
But most of the lower scores belonged to the pros. Of the locals entered, Kevin Stadler and Jesse Mueller were in a group of five golfers just a shot back at 64. Michael Allen, Brian Kontak, Bryce Molder and Jerry Smith were at 66. Chez Reavie was next with a 67.