ORLANDO, Fla. – John Huh’s change in equipment took him a little longer to get used to than expected after making the switch to TaylorMade for the 2013 season.
On Thursday, Huh finished the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge with a 5-under 67, two shots off Justin Rose’s lead and in second place.
“I have a different attitude this week,” Huh said. “It was just to get out and have fun.”
He changed everything in his bag except his utility club, and it wasn’t until The Honda Classic three weeks ago when he got his game all together with the new sticks.
Huh had a clean scorecard at Bay Hill until No. 9, his 18th hole, when he drove into the left fairway bunker, near the lip. After blasting out, Huh left himself 40 yards into the green. His pitch didn’t check, and his ball ran out to 10 feet.
“Yeah, pleased with the way I finished, but not the way I was looking to finish my 18th hole,” he said.
There might have been added pressure for the reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year after a successful season. Huh, 22, briefly attended Cal State-Northridge before spending three seasons on the Korean Tour. He earned his card at the 2011 Q-School before winning last year’s Mayakoba Golf Classic.
In 2013, Huh has played in eight events, missing four cuts. Huh’s opening round at Bay Hill was his lowest score since a second-round 63 in the Sony Open, leading to a tie for 31st. He hasn’t finished better than T-18, in the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
“I lost my confidence out on West Coast,” he said. Huh made only one cut in three West Coast stops, a T-60 in the Farmers Insurance Open.
Huh tied for 28th two weeks ago in the WGC-Cadillac Championship, a no-cut event. Last week at the Tampa Bay Championship, he struggled with an opening-round 75 and missed another cut.
That was when he decided to have a chat with his father.
“He said to just go out and just have some fun,” Huh said of the exchange. “Play smart and play conservative.”
It also helped that his short game was on fire Thursday. He had two chip-ins, but one in particular sparked his game. To start a string of three consecutive birdies, he chipped in on No. 16, his seventh hole after starting on the back side. He also had back-to-back saves on Nos. 7 and 8 – at the seventh from the greenside bunker, where he short-sided himself, and at the eighth from the back of the green.
“My short game was great today,” Huh said.
“I really liked the way I played today, and hopefully I can do this until Sunday.”