PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. — Down to his last chance to earn a PGA Tour card, Ashley Hall opened the Web.com Tour Championship with his second-best score of the year — even though he called a penalty on himself when he noticed his ball slightly move.
Hall bounced back from that penalty shot to birdie two of his last three holes for a 7-under 63 on the Valley Course at the TPC Sawgrass. That gave him a one-shot lead Thursday over Robert Karlsson of Sweden and Mark Anderson, who already is assured his PGA Tour card.
Karlsson, a former Ryder Cup player, also needs a big week to get back PGA Tour card back.
The Web.com Tour Championship is the last of four tournaments for 25 players to earn PGA Tour cards for the 2013-14 season. The top 25 are decided by a money list from the four tournaments. Players who already finished in the top 25 on the Web.com Tour money list from the regular season are assured a card.
Hall was in dire need of a round like this.
The 29-year-old Australian had a chance to earn his card from the Web.com Tour money list last month until he missed the cut in the final regular-season event and missed out on the top 25 by $1,922. If that wasn’t bad enough, he missed the cut in the last three events.
Because of rain all week and still some in the forecast, players competed under preferred lies. Hall placed his ball in the 15th fairway, and after grounding his club, noticed the ball move slightly downward. He called for an official and gave himself a one-shot penalty for his only bogey of the round.
Hall has never had a PGA Tour card and would need a top finish this week at Sawgrass.
Karlsson is only slightly better off. He was at No. 72 on the special money list — about 22 spots away from getting one of the 25 cards on offer — was nearly $13,000 away from at least having a mathematical chance at his card. Karlsson opened with five birdies in seven holes and kept bogeys off his card on a cloudy day at PGA Tour headquarters.
Anderson, who earned his card by finishing No. 8 on the regular-season money list, also opened with a 64.
Shane Bertsch, at No. 97 on the special money list, joined Chesson Hadley at 65. The group at 66 included Henrik Norlander and Billy Hurley III, both of whom need a strong finish to get their cards.