Thompson, Eason, Johnson share Jones Cup lead
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The cream normally rises to the top, and that seemed to be the case at the Jones Cup on Friday in Sea Island, Ga.
College stars Greg Eason (UCF), Michael Johnson (Auburn) and Curtis Thompson (LSU) all fired 2-under 70s to take the 18-hole lead at the Ocean Forest Club.
All three have won recent amateur titles, with Eason notching a victory at the South Beach International in December, Johnson going 28 under to win the Dogwood Invitational in June and Thompson capturing the Dixie Amateur for the second time last month.
Thompson was in the driver's seat for much of Friday, but a double bogey on the par-4 18th sent him back into the three-way tie.
“I scored a lot better than I played today,” Thompson said. “I was in trouble off a few tees but managed to get myself out of trouble.
“It’s an improvement for me. Last year, if I had that round off the tee, I would’ve shot 77 or 78. But with the confidence I have, I was able to make small adjustments.”
Johnson also dropped a shot on the 18th, too. He had bookend bogeys on the scorecard but was happy with the way he played in his first tournament in America since the Porter Cup in July. He has been nursing a hip injury and debuted earlier this month at the Australian Master of the Amateurs.
“I hit the ball straight off the tee today and wasn’t in much trouble,” he said. “It was my first round at Ocean Forest. Making putts always helps a round.”
Johnson wasn’t able to play a practice round on account of being stuck in the snow and ice that caused major backups throughout the state earlier this week.
“The goal is the same as any other day,” Johnson said of Saturday’s second round. “I need to just go play good golf, keep the ball in front of me and stay out of trouble.”
Eason had just one bogey on Friday.
Mississippi State’s Chad Ramey is alone in fourth after a 1-under 71 while four players, including Canadian Corey Conners of Kent State, sit tied for fifth at even. Junior golfer Austin Connelly is also a part of that T-5 group, while fellow junior star Brad Dalke is T-15 at 2 over.
The dynamic Alabama trio of Cory Whitsett (T-25, 3 over), Trey Mullinax (T-25, 3 over) and Bobby Wyatt (T-50, 5 over) will have plenty of work to do to climb the leaderboard, while Cal teammates Brandon Hagy (T-50, 5 over), Joel Stalter (T-25, 3 over) and Michael Weaver (82nd, 9 over) also struggled in Round 1.
Reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Mike McCoy of West Des Moines, Iowa and three-time Walker Cup player Nathan Smith are the field’s low mid-ams after firing dual 1-over 73s.