WINNIPEG - A former champion rocketed to the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the $200,000 Canadian Tour Players Cup.
Josh Habig of San Diego fired a 6-under 65 on Thursday at Pine Ridge Golf Club to take a two-shot lead over seven players.
Habig's round included two bogies, eight pars and an outstanding eight birdies, a solid start for the man who won his first Canadian Tour event in 2006 at Pine Ridge when the event was called the MTS Classic.
Among those two strokes back are Canadians Roger Sloan and Dustin Risdon and Americans Mike Grob, Jon McLean, Ryan Thornberry, Micah Burke and Garrett Sapp.
"Every year the same kind of scores win, so you know how the golf course plays," said Sloan. "I just wanted to get off to a good solid start and that's what I did."
Oddly enough, a bogey on his second hole (the par-4 11th) sharpened Sloan's focus.
"Probably it actually settled me down a little bit," he said. "Then I just kind of got into a rhythm for the rest of the day. I know that sounds kind of weird but sometimes a bogey can help you. We stayed focused and didn't make many mistakes after that."
The top local was Brad Kirton of Pine Ridge, who shot 68 and found himself in a group of players just three shots off the pace.
"I don't mind playing in the wind," said Kirton. "It sort of makes you create a little more of a shot rather than just trying to hit it. You're a little more engaged in the shot that you're hitting."
Josh Persons of Fargo, N.D., Benjamin Alvarado of Chile and Australian Jason Scrivener also shot 68.
Rob McMillan of Pine Ridge, coincidentally the last Manitoban to win the event (back in 1996), shot an even-par 71.
McMillan had an interesting round that included 10 pars, four birdies and four bogeys.
Steve Saunders of New Mexico got off to an amazing start and was 6-under after six holes (thanks in part to a pair of eagles) and 7-under through eight.
Saunders made the turn with a 29 (including a bogey on 18) before things began to go south.
By the time his round was done, Saunders -- who made a triple-bogey on the fifth hole (his 14th)-- found himself at even-par 71.
One of the early highlights saw Canadian Adam Hadwin come up with the first birdie on the treacherous 231-yard, par-3 ninth hole -- featuring a perfect five-iron (with the wind) that ended up about six feet from the hole before he rolled it in for the two.
"It was a great way to end, something to build on," said Hadwin, who shot a 1-over 72. "At least I'm still in it and I have a chance."
Players Cup Round 1 leaderboard
1. Josh Habig -6 65
2. Mike Grob -4 67
2. Dustin Risdon -4 67
2. Roger Sloan -4 67
2. Jon McLean -4 67
2. Ryan Thornberry -4 67
2. Micah Burke -4 67
2. Garrett Sapp -4 67
9. Brad Kirton -3 68