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PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. — Last time out, Willie Mack III got little prep for Torrey Pines and didn’t make it to the weekend at the Farmers Insurance Open.
On Thursday at the Genesis Invitational, where his PGA Tour debut was originally supposed to come, Mack made a pair of 20-footers for birdie and a pair of 10-footers for birdie en route to an opening 1-under 70 at Riviera Country Club. He walked off the course four shots back of clubhouse leader Matthew Fitzpatrick.
While he missed the cut in San Diego three weeks ago, Mack at least got those Tour debut jitters out of the way.
“I think it helped out a lot,” he said of his experience at the Farmers. “Other than that, I played good at Torrey, I just was in the rough probably 90 percent of the time. I think it helped out a lot.”
Mack hit seven of 14 fairways on Thursday and had the putter working. He opened on the first hole with a putt from about 8 ½ feet for birdie to kick start his round. He drained another 8-footer for birdie on the fifth. His birdie on the ninth measured 19 feet, 11 inches. His final birdie of the day on the 13th was his longest, almost 21 feet.
He said the course was a little firmer on Thursday than it was earlier in the week.
“Other than that it was pretty much the same,” said the 2021 recipient of the Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption. “You really got to keep the ball below the holes out here. I kind of managed to do that and got in with an under-par score.”
On Friday, he’ll be back at the Riv, aiming to at least make the cut in his second time out on Tour. He says the biggest check he’s ever won in a golf tournament was $37,000 but he has his eyes on a bigger prize.
“I’m out here trying to win like everybody else. I tee it up just like everybody else, so why not come out here and try to win?”
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