The physical transformation in Dustin Garza is easily noticeable. The score the former Wichita State golfer put on the Air Capital Classic leaderboard on Thursday was hard to miss, too.
Garza, a two-time All-American at WSU, shot a 5-under-par 66 to earn a share of third place with Eric Axley and Jason Gore after the first round of the Web.com Tour event on Crestview’s North course. Playing on a sponsor’s exemption, Garza punctuated his round with an eagle on the par-5 18th to finish three shots behind leader Alex Prugh.
“I just drove it well on the back side,” said Garza, 25, who turned pro in 2010. “If you just set yourself up with tee shots on this side, you’re going to be hitting short irons into greens.”
Garza’s second Air Capital Classic is off to a much better start than his first. Two years ago, as a Web.com rookie, Garza realized after waking up for the second round that he had signed an incorrect scorecard the previous day. He reported the error and was disqualified. It was part of a season in which Garza failed to make a cut in 17 events.
After a nondescript 2012 golf season, Garza partnered with a trainer on a workout regimen. Since September, Garza’s weight has dropped from 236 to 182 pounds.
“It was just time for a change,” Garza said. “I went back to my old swing teacher that I had in college. I just tried to get things back to where they used to be, and it’s been good.”
Saving the day – Former Air Capital Classic runner-up David Gossett had one of the wildest rounds of anybody in the 156-player field. After making bogeys on four of his first five holes, the 1999 U.S. Amateur champion played the final 10 holes in 7 under for a 68.
Gossett’s day started to improve with a birdie on the par-4 ninth hole. Once he hit Crestview’s commonly better scoring side, he birdied the 10th, eagled the 14th and finished with three consecutive birdies.
It was a promising start for the 34-year-old Gossett, who has toiled in recent years after breaking on to the PGA Tour in 2001. That year, Gossett tied for second behind Jason Dufner in the first Air Capital Classic at Crestview. Two weeks later, he took advantage of a sponsor’s exemption into the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic and won.
That other tournament – With 13 current Web.com members in this week’s U.S. Open, the tour’s presence is definitely felt. In Thursday’s rain-delayed first round at Merion, 2011 Air Capital Classic champion Mathew Goggin was tied for fourth at 2 under through six holes.
Edward Loar, No. 2 on the Web.com money list, was tied for 51st at 2 over through six holes. Luke Donald finished 13 holes and was atop the leaderboard at 4 under, while Phil Mickelson, who completed his round, and Adam Scott (11 holes) were 3 under.
Etc. – Three former Air Capital Classic champions are in the field. Kevin Johnson, the 2006 winner, shot 70. Two-time winner Brad Elder carded a 71 and 2003 winner Jeff Klauk shot 73.… Crestview showed a little more bite than in past years. The field’s first-round scoring average was 71.321. There were 59 rounds below par.… Five-time PGA Tour winner Billy Mayfair withdrew from the tournament prior to the first round. He was scheduled to play in Wednesday’s pro-am, but withdrew from that, as well.