A year after missing the cut in his tournament debut, Robby Shelton tied the tournament record with a 10-under 61 in the first round of the WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft Heinz.
“I don’t really think about a number out here,” said Shelton. “I just think about birdies, knowing these other guys are going to go low. Everybody here wants to win, so that’s the main goal this week, but there are still three rounds left.”
Shelton is no stranger to the top of the leaderboard. The 23-year-old has won twice on Tour this year, led the points standings for four weeks earlier in the year and locked up his PGA TOUR card in early May. He is currently second in The 25, 232 points behind leader Xinjun Zhang.
“Hitting that No. 1 spot is definitely the goal for me,” said Shelton of the coveted top spot and fully exempt status that comes with it. “I think it’s going to help anyone who wins it, as far as taking a lot of pressure off and not having too much to worry about your schedule throughout the year…And getting into THE PLAYERS would be amazing.”
After three pars to begin his round, Shelton went on a tear, birdieing eight of his next 10 holes before tacking on two more at the 16th and 18th to reach 10-under. The 61 ties a tournament record originally set by Ted Potter, Jr. in 2016 and again by Derek Ernst in 2018. Shelton’s previous low round on Tour was a 63 (twice).
While he was already 4-under entering the hole, he credited the ninth hole as a confidence booster midway through the round.
“My shot of the day was at the ninth today,” said Shelton, referring to the third-toughest hole on the course on Thursday. “I hit a 5-iron in after having 206 yards to the hole. That’s one of the toughest holes out there and I hit it four or five feet right of the hole and made that.”
Shelton is a former All-American at the University of Alabama and claimed the 2014 Phil Mickelson Award as the nation’s top freshman. He was also the top-ranked junior in the country entering college. He finished second in the Order of Merit on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada in 2017 and competed full-time on the Korn Ferry Tour each of the past two years.
Jimmy Stanger sits two shot back with a first-round 8-under 63. The 63 sets a new low round on Tour for Stanger and was especially meaningful coming back to Pumpkin Ridge.
“I still remember leaving this place in tears last year,” said Stanger, who finished 78th on the money list to just miss out on fully exempt status in 2019. “Just to finish bogey-par to lose your card by one stroke was really tough. I definitely have some déjà vu standing here right now knowing last year I had to finish one stroke better, so it helps that this year I already have a job for next year.”
Stanger entered the week 41st on the points list with a spot in the Finals already locked up, along with full status next season on Tour. While projections vary throughout the week, the University of Virginia alum would likely need a runner-up finish or better to finish inside The 25 and earn his PGA TOUR card.
Four players are T3 at 7-under 64 after the first round: David Lingmerth, Greg Yates, Tyson Alexander and Vince India.
The second round will run in two waves on Friday from 7 a.m. to 2:26 p.m. off of the first and 10th tees.