PINE MOUNTAIN, Georgia—Austin Morrison was not about to let history repeat itself. Tuesday in the first round of the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada’s Qualifying Tournament at Callaway Gardens Resort’s Mountain Course, Morrison opened with a 5-under 65 to take a one-shot lead over Americans Patrick Cover and Chris Erwin, American amateur Alex Shead and Australian Travis Smyth. Two years earlier after the first round, Morrison wasn’t in the lead, but he did find himself in a similar situation.
At that year’s Mackenzie Tour Qualifying Tournament at TPC Sawgrass’ Dye’s Valley Course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, Morrison hooked a drive out of bounds for a double bogey on No. 10. He fought back, but then double-bogeyed the 18th hole and triple-bogeyed his first hole the next day. “Literally, those three holes were the entire reason I didn’t have full status,” said Morrison, who finished the week tied for 33rd and ultimately didn’t play a single Mackenzie Tour tournament that year because of his conditional status.
“That was in the back of my mind as I got to the back nine today,” he explained, reminiscing on a not-so-great memory. “I was like, you need to keep the pedal down because the last time you were in this position, you took it off and didn’t keep playing well. Luckily I focused well.”
Morrison only called one of his six birdies “easy,” that one coming at the par-5 16th hole, when he was on the green in two and two-putted. Two holes earlier, Morrison had a little flair for the dramatic. On the par-3 14th, he missed the green with his tee shot but still managed birdie.
“I yanked it a little bit, and that green slopes right to left and it kicked long and left. I was better off there missing than anywhere else,” he said. From below the hole, about 20 feet from the cup, Morrison decided to use his putter, rolling his ball in for his second-to-last birdie of the day. “I trickled it over the front edge.” He followed that with a final birdie at 16 while writing a different first-round Q-School storyline in this sequel.
Cover is also settling in nicely at the Mountain Course. Last summer, playing on the LOCALiQ Series, the former University of North Carolina-Wilmington player, opened with a 65-69 with the course playing as a par-72. He closed with a 9-under 63 to finish third, a stroke out of the Stoney Crouch-Hayden Shieh playoff won by Crouch.
“It took me a while to get going today. I made a birdie at nine to turn at even(-par). Then I really got going on the last six to get to 4-under, and I made a really nice up and down on the last to keep it there. I’m pretty happy with the way I came in with 66 after not really playing that great for the first 12, 13 holes,” Cover said. “Last year, we played in August, and the greens were a little slower and a little grainier. They’re really pure right now. They’re rolling at a good speed and holding the line well.”