SANTA ANA PUEBLO, N.M. – Those players in the morning wave of Sunday’s opening round at the 42nd PGA Professional National Championship faced a couple of meteorlogical obstacles: hours of cool drizzle just heavy enough to be a nuisance, and winds that often gusted to 20 mph. But the conditions produced no complaints from Kevin Savage.
He’s from the area around Syracuse, N.Y., which knows miserable weather as much as any city in the country.
“This weather is like sun for us,” beamed Savage after an opening round of 4-under-par 67 at Santa Ana Golf Club that put him just a stroke off the early lead of defending champion Scott Hebert. “Being from Syracuse, I have [played in bad weather] so much; this weather is a hindrance, but you have to do it. Everyone has to go through it.”
The more potentially troublesome condition for Savage, playing in his fourth PNC but just his second since 1996, is the rheumatoid arthritis he battles.
“I have been fighting a flareup in my left hand,” he said. “Last night it didn’t feel very good, so I kept icing it and heating and I hope it holds for four days. When you get a flareup, there is not much you can do. That was my biggest concern last night, just sitting in the hotel icing it. It feels pretty good right now.”
Savage, 43 and an assistant professional at Kanon Valley Golf Club in Oneida, N.Y., benefitted from some local knowledge and a hot streak at the end of his round. “My misses weren’t too bad,” said Savage, a two-time winner (1996, 2004) of the Central New York Section Championship. “My caddie, who is a local, really gave me some good reads. His help has been good.”
Savage ended his round with three straight birdies, but that didn’t necessarily have him getting ahead of himself and thinking about a spot in August’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., that comes to this week’s top 20 finishers.
“It’s too early to think of that,” he said. “You have to play a hole at a time and a shot at a time and not look ahead at all. There are too many good players out here that, if you do that, you are in trouble.”