Golf

He likes Kentucky. He lights up Kentucky. PGA first-round leader enjoys record day.

Slideshow: Day one images of the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship

Photos from the first day of the PGA Tour Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville.
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Photos from the first day of the PGA Tour Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville.

Troy Merritt started to enjoy Central Kentucky before the PGA Barbasol Championship kicked off, but he had more to like about the area after the first round ended on the Champions Course at Keene Trace Golf Club.

Merritt shot a 10-under-par 62, matching the course record set by Steve Flesch in the 1991 Kentucky Open, to overtake clubhouse leader Andres Romero — who led most of the day — for sole possession of first place on Thursday. He was a short putt shy of matching his personal-best round and claiming the course record outright.

He wasn’t distraught.

“I was very happy just to post 62,” Merritt said. “I left it a little short. If I’d hit a little firmer I think I would have missed it left anyway, so just I just slightly misread it. A 62’s a 62.”

Merritt liked playing the Champions Course, to which he got good exposure during a Tuesday practice round and a Pro-Am event on Wednesday. He took in the local scene while away from Keene Trace.

“This is a cool course. I think Lexington’s a great town, too. I’d never been.”

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Troy Merritt celebrated after sinking a putt on the ninth hole during the PGA Tour Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club Thursday in Nicholasville. Merritt finished 10-under par for the day and leads the tournament. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Merritt is an Iowa native but in his last two years of college attended Boise State University, where he was a selection to the All-Western Athletic Conference First Team. He and his family have settled in Boise.

“It’s really cool to see all the equestrian estates and the horse farms,” Merritt said. “We don’t really have anything like that out in Idaho. We’ve got a lot of land but we’ve got a lot of cows.”

Merritt recorded eight birdies and one eagle, on par-5 No. 6. He started his day aware of Romero’s early advantage.

“You still have to play your game and still take it one shot at a time,” Merritt said of playing with that in mind. “Playing on Tuesday and Wednesday, knowing that there are birdies out here, you know you’re gonna make your fair share. Just make sure you don’t do anything silly and make a couple bogeys.

“This is a week where scoring’s gonna be pretty good. You might have to get upwards of under-20 to have a chance to win this thing. We were just fortunate enough to make lot of birdies and we didn’t make any mistakes.”

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