Australia’s Nick O’Hern shot a career-best 9-under 62 on Thursday in rainy conditions to take a three-stroke lead over European Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts, Jhonattan Vegas and Derek Ernst in the Frys.com Open.
O’Hern had eight birdies in an 11-hole stretch and capped the bogey-free round with a birdie on the par-5 ninth hole at CordeValle Golf Club.
O’Hern, who has five professional wins, all in Australia, tied for second at the Booz Allen Classic six years ago for her best finish in the United States. His was third this year in the St. Jude Classic for his lone top-25 finish of the year.
”It’s been my toughest season as a professional,” he said. ”The last two months or so I feel my game began to turn around and that I sort of refreshed my mind on what worked in the past.”
Colsaerts is trying to earn a PGA Tour card. As a special temporary member, he needs to finish the equivalent of 125th on the money list to earn a full 2013 card. The Belgian player has earned $652,886, enough now for the 120th spot.
”It is a little more difficult to keep playing in the rain,” Colsaerts said. ”The greens got a bit softer as well, and pace-wise on the greens it’s not the same thing. So you got to search for the things that the rain just changes the course a little. But I felt like I’m kind of used to playing in this kind of stuff. I know you guys over here don’t really like it that much. I thought it was actually the perfect time just to press on and make sure I get a good score in.”
Vegas is fighting a shoulder injury.
”It was definitely a phenomenal round today,” Vegas said. ”It was really the best solid round I’ve had all year from the beginning to the end from birdieing the fifth hole and birdieing two of the last three.”
Ernst is playing in his first career tour event after winning a sectional qualifier.
Charles Howell III, John Mallinger, Jonas Blixt, Gary Woodland and Greg Owen shot 66.
British Open champion Ernie Els opened with a 71 in the Fall Series event.
”All in all, I’ll take 71,” Els said. ”It’s not the best start, but it’s not the worst start. I can get into the 60s the next three rounds.”
O’Hern had to battle the elements too. There was a steady mist falling, and the wind came up, for a couple of hours in the late afternoon.
”You never know what can happen with the weather,” he said. ”It’s probably going to be chilly in the morning.”