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Merritt leads PGA Barbasol Championship as Lincicome struggles

© GETTY/AFP | Troy Merritt of the US hits his second shot on the ninth hole during the first round of the Barbasol Championship, at Keene Trace Golf Club in Lexington, Kentucky, on July 19, 2018

WASHINGTON (AFP) - 

Brittany Lincicome found herself 16 shots off the first-round lead of Troy Merritt at the Barbasol Championship on Thursday, but that didn't dim her pleasure in her US PGA Tour debut.

"She had a smile on her face all day," Sam Ryder, one of Lincicome's playing partners, said of the eight-time LPGA winner, who became just the sixth woman to tee it up on the PGA Tour. "She was just a great sport out there."

Lincicome said she largely managed to conquer her nerves, but a double-bogey at the par-three 18th, her ninth, and a triple-bogey six at the par-three seventh -- her 16th, led to a six-over par 78.

"I was pretty happy with my game over all," said Lincicome, playing this week on a sponsor's exemption. "I just had two bad holes. But I drove it well. I did all the things I said I needed to do, but just my putter let me down today.

"I was a lot calmer than I thought I was going to be, which was a relief. After the first tee shot I was like, 'OK, let's go. We can do this.'"

But the odds were against her making up enough ground on Friday to become the only woman besides Babe Zaharias in 1945 to make a PGA Tour 36-hole cut.

While the spotlight was on Lincicome, Merritt put together a sparkling round of 10-under par 62 at Keen Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Kentucky.

"I put my old putter back in play last week and started making some putts," said Merritt, who had eight birdies and an eagle. "(I) felt pretty good on Tuesday, and then felt pretty good in the nine-hole pro-am yesterday. Today just continued hitting the same shots and made the putts and didn't make any silly mistakes. Posted a 62."

Merritt hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation and didn't miss a putt from within 10 feet.

He teed off on 10 and was six-under when he arrived at the par-five sixth, his 15th of the day, where he chipped in his third shot from 11 yards off the green for eagle.

"Kind of fun to watch that go in," said Merritt, who is seeking a second tour win after his victory in the Quicken Loans National in 2015.

He added birdies at seven and eight and had a three-shot lead over Argentina's Andres Romero and Americans Billy Horschel and Joel Dahmen.

© 2018 AFP