WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Sometimes it’s difficult to sense just how nervous a player is feeling when he steps on the first tee as a new member of the PGA Tour.
Robby Shelton admits he was so hyped up, he could hardly sleep the night before. Then he went out Thursday morning and shot an eight-under-par 62 in the first round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
A 24-year-old Alabama native, Shelton converted nine birdies against one bogey to take an early two-stroke lead over rookie Scott Harrington, a fellow Korn Ferry Tour graduate. Shelton isn’t a rookie, having competed in eight tour events in 2016-'17 after playing for the University of Alabama.
But his last tour start was more than two years ago, at the 2017 RBC Canadian Open. A lot of time between tiddlers. Since then he’s played on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and the Korn Ferry Tour, where he won twice last season to make it to the ultimate golf destination.
Thus, he endured a bit of a restless night. And he wasn’t a bit surprised by his jitters.
“I've been waiting for this moment all season. After winning two times on the Korn Ferry [in a three-week span in April and early May] I knew it was coming and just been super excited,” Shelton said. “It's finally here. Just celebrate it for the next three days.
“Yeah, I don’t think it’s shocking [to be so keyed up]. It's the PGA Tour. It's so much fun and what you look forward to your whole life. I just knew my game was there, and I was super excited to see what it could hold up to.”
It held up exceedingly well on a course softened by a heavy downpour Wednesday afternoon and left further defenseless because of little wind. After his only bogey, at the par-3 18th, Shelton bounced back with three straight birdies and finished with five birdies on the inward nine for a 29. His 62 is a career-low on the PGA Tour, coming just a few weeks after a 10-under 61 at the WinCo Foods Portland Open in the final regular-season event on the Korn Ferry Tour.
Shelton remembers having a different feeling when he began playing PGA Tour events at the 2016 Sanderson Farms Championship. He’s learned a lot since then.
“Yeah, just trying to tell myself that it's just golf,” he said. “I think [during] my sponsor exemptions and stuff, I thought I had to change my game and try to play with the big boys. Now, I mean, I just know it's golf. Been through the Mackenzie Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour, so I know what my game has. And if I can just get to that a lot sooner, that's the goal.”
The first round of the first event of the new season seems soon enough.