SEA ISLAND, Ga. (Jan. 31, 2014) -- No strangers to elite competition, Gregory Eason, Michael Johnson and Curtis Thompson share the lead after the first round of play at the 2014 Jones Cup Invitational at Ocean Forest Golf Club.
The trio came in at 2-under 70 entering Saturday's second of three rounds and sit one shot up on a loaded field at one of the season’s premier events.
Thompson, of course, is a recent winner of the Dixie Amateur. The LSU ace, whose sister is LPGA star Lexi Thompson, won the Dixie for the second time last month. His co-leaders are no strangers to high-level wins, either. Eason, a Central Florida golfer from England won the South Beach International in December while Johnson, who plays at Auburn, went 28-under to win the Dogwood Invitational last June.
“This is by far one of the best fields and to get it this time of year is pretty impressive,” Thompson said. “Somehow they manage to bring back a top field and with the weather they’ve had, to keep the course in such great shape is unbelievable.”
Thompson sat 4-under on the 18th tee and had a chance to finish Round 1 with a two-shot advantage. He made double-bogey on the 480-yard par-4 18th to fall back to the field.
“I scored a lot better than I played today,” Thompson admitted. “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 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’s 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.
Eason had just one bogey Friday to share the lead entering Round 2.
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-par.
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.
“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.”
Started in 2001, the Jones Cup is an annual gathering of the top international amateurs at Ocean Forest Golf Club, site of the 2001 Walker Cup. This year's field, considered the best in event history by tournament director Kory Reitz, includes players from 18 different countries -- eight of which have sent its No. 1-ranked player.