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Macdonald shoots 11-under, leads by 2 strokes at Windsor Championship

Stuart Macdonald Stuart Macdonald - The Canadian Press

WINDSOR, Ontario – Stuart Macdonald already has a win on PGA TOUR Canada this season, but the Vancouver native admitted he was definitely fighting the nerves on Thursday while pursuing a bit of history.

Macdonald had a legitimate shot to join the “59 Club” but settled for a course-record 11-under 60 to take the first-round lead at the Windsor Championship. Macdonald had 11 birdies and no bogeys at Ambassador Golf Club and finished with the lowest score recorded on PGA TOUR Canada this year.

“It’s weird being nervous in round one,” Macdonald said. “I was 10-under with three to play and I was definitely thinking about (a 59). I had a couple good putts on 16 and 17 that I couldn’t get to go, but I obviously can’t complain. It was great day.”

Macdonald holds a two-shot lead over Americans Justin Juszczyk and Ryan Linton who posted the ninth and tenth 62s on PGA TOUR Canada this season. Canadian Lawren Rowe and Australian Cory Crawford are tied for fourth place at 8-under 63, while Canadian Myles Creighton is alone in sixth place at 7-under 64.

Nine players are tied for seventh at 65 – Americans Alex Scott, Cole Bradley, Chris Francoeur, Travis Trace, David Kim, Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira, Eric McCardle, Luke Schneiderjans and Canadian Jared du Toit.

Macdonald, who won the Commissionaires Ottawa Open two weeks ago in a playoff, matched his best professional score. His other 60 came in a two-day mini-tour event in Florida when he shot 73-60.

“The first round you don’t normally feel all those emotions,” he said. “When you get into that situation, you want to capitalize and make the most of it. Happy with the way the day went.”

Macdonald shot 32 on the front nine and opened the back with six consecutive birdies. He made a birdie on the 18th to complete the magical round.

“I just made a bunch of 6-10 footers,” he said. “Last week I didn’t make anything and today they’re kind of going in for me. Just struck it really well.”

He was especially proud of the birdie on No. 14, a 237-yard par-3 that plays over water. He hit his tee shot to within two feet and drained the putt.

“That’s a hole where three isn’t a bad score and I made a two to keep the momentum going,” he said.

Juszczyk, who started on No. 10, got red-hot on his second nine when he went six-under during a six-hole stretch that included an eagle and four birdies. The eagle came on the 507-yard par-5 third hole. He hit a 7-iron from 188 yards to about 30 feet and made the uphill putt.

“I was hitting it well and I was kind of around the hole most of the day,” Juszczyk said. “I didn’t really have to work for a whole lot, saving putts or anything like that. It’s nice to see some putts going in.”

In June, the Detroit, Michigan native won the 106th Michigan Open and called it the best of his career. At 36 years old, Juszczyk wants to see that success translate to PGA TOUR Canada, where he’s made the cut in two of three events but hasn’t finished better than a tie for 44th place.

“It’s a lot of fun to be in contention,” he added. “You want to get there as much as you can. It’s huge to be able to draw on recent successes and experiences, for sure.”

Linton, of Lake Forest, Illinois, was playing under tougher conditions in the afternoon wave. He shot 31 on each side and bounced back from his lone bogey on the 16th hole with a birdie at No. 17.

The highlight of Linton’s round was an eagle on the 513-yard par-5 seventh. Despite ending up with mud on his tee ball, Linton landed his 6-iron approach from 196 yards to within 15 feet and made the putt. Linton was proud of the way he handled the adversity.

“You can’t change what happened. There’s no point in getting frustrated about it,” Linton said. “It’s just part of the game and you just deal with it. I tried to adjust as best as possible. It was on top of the ball, so normally it just comes off a little lower and it did just that.”

Rowe had an eagle, seven birdies and one bogey during his 63, besting his previous low score by three shots. Crawford had an eagle and six birdies, and has put himself in a solid position to make the cut for the second time in seven starts.

Creighton, of Digby, Nova Scotia, was second last week at the Osprey Valley Open. He had eight birdies – including a stretch of four-straight – and one bogey in shooting his 64.