North Phoenix resident Todd Rakotz started off hot and carried it all the way through to a three-stroke lead after first-round play of the 2004 AT &T Wireless Arizona Open Thursday at Scottsdale’s Troon Country Club.
Rakotz, 31, birdied his first four holes Thursday morning and carded a 7-under 65 (34-31) to take the lead over second-place Steve Schneiter (33-34) of Utah. Scottsdale’s Scott Frisch shot a 4-under 68 (34-34) to hold third place after one day of play.
"I’m just trying to get ahead like any other golf pro," said Rakotz, a part-time golf pro at Tatum Ranch. "I played off the tee pretty well. Getting the birdies early helped and I made the putts I needed to make."
Frisch, a golf pro at Desert Mountain, is a former college teammate of PGA player Phil Mickelson. The two helped Arizona State to a national title in 1990.
"I think I only missed one fairway and four greens today," Frisch said. "I think I hit 14 out of 18 greens."
Frisch has played the tournament nearly every year since 1989 and has finished as high as fourth. He’s not quite ready to admit that this is his best chance to take the Arizona Open.
"We’ll see how things shake out tomorrow," Frisch said. "I’ve played well all summer, but I haven’t put together three solid rounds of golf yet. If my putter stays hot, anything can happen."
Schneiter has been hot, winning three tournaments this year, including state opens in Idaho and Wyoming as well as the Long Beach Open in August.
"I only had one bad swing today," said Schneiter. "I just played solid. If you keep it out of the desert, you can score at this place."
Veteran PGA Tour pro Andrew Magee, who is still recovering from ankle surgery, shot a 75.
Fifteen-year-old amateur Philip Francis joined four others for a share of fourth place. Francis’ 3-under 69 was two shots off his first-round pace of a year ago when he was the low amateur with a 19th-place finish. Francis posted a firstround score of 67 a year ago.
Greg Casagranda, the 2002 champion, shot a 77, and former ASU standout Chez Reavie fired an even-par 72.
The total purse is $105,000, with the winner receiving $20,000. Today’s round will determine who will reach Saturday’s final round.