Thursday's breeze wasn't strong enough to be a wind of change for the Cox Classic birdiefest.
First Andrew Loupe, then Billy Hurley III came in with 8-under-par 63s at Champions Run to share the first-round lead in the final regular-season tournament on the Web.com Tour.
It's now been 10 years since a higher score was good for the opening-day lead.
“You have to go out there and make some birdies. You can’t ever make too many,’’ said Wes Roach, No. 26 on a money list that will reward the top 25 this weekend with PGA Tour membership for next season.
Hurley had a smooth scorecard of no bogeys to mar his collection of eight birdies in the first 13 holes at the 7,161-yard, par-71 Champions Run course.
Loupe’s round, like Hurley’s a season-low, by comparison was wild. Eagles to start and end the round, with a double bogey only five holes in.
That 6 on the par-4 14th hole, with his tee shot going into the lateral hazard along the left, proved pivotal to his round.
“I had a little bit of a swing thought come into my head, keep the right shoulder coming through the strike zone,’’ said Loupe (Loop), who tied the tournament record with his 28 on the course’s front nine.
One stroke behind the co-leaders entering Friday’s second round was Brazilian Alexandre Rocha with a no-bogey 64, followed by veterans Marco Dawson and Jason Gore (the 2005 Cox champion), Roach and Nick O’Hern at 65.
Michael Putnam, the tour’s leading money winner, was at 67. None of the top eight scorers is higher than 26th on the money list.
Because of early-morning showers that pushed back tee times 10 minutes, the round was played under lift, clean and place rules.
Thursday’s scoring average was 69.40, the highest on opening day in five years, although the field of 156 players might be the deepest in tournament history.
Hurley, who’s No. 32, said he had some sharp wedge play, three times making birdies from kick-in range. The 31-year-old U.S. Naval Academy graduate, who completed his five-year obligation in 2009, parred his final five holes.
“The holes coming in were pretty tough,’’ he said. “On 17, I didn’t hit a good tee shot and the wind was straight into you with the wedge shot. It was hard to get it close.
“The 15th, it played like 500 yards going into the wind. I hit hybrid to that green. I didn’t hit as many quality drivers in the last five or six holes.”
Loupe, who’s No. 86, launched his round with a 30-footer for eagle on the par-5 10th. After the double bogey dropped him to even, he birdied the 17th before setting fire to the front nine for only the second 28 shot in the first round (Joey Snyder, 1999) and the first in any round since 2007 (Jason Day, third round).
He birdied holes 1 to 6, except for the par-4 second, then opened the $1 beer tap on the ninth hole by knocking in an 8-footer for eagle.
“It’s a good start, but there’s a long way to go,’’ said Loupe, who graduated two years ago from LSU. “I might not even be leading after the round.”
He was. Now he’s on guard to avoid what happened the last time he went low in an opening round, a 64 for a share of the lead in Panama. The next two rounds were 74-77.
“I struggled,’’ Loupe said. “I fell back to the cut line (in the second round) before making birdies the last two holes.”