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Ben Martin uses birdie spree to take early lead in Dominican Republic

Jul 8, 2021; Silvis, Illinois, USA; Ben Martin plays his tee shot on the 13th hole during the first round of the John Deere Classic golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Martin racked up six birdies on the back nine to earn the first-round lead at the Corales Puntacana Championship in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

After making the turn at even par, Martin carded a 30 on the back nine for a 6-under-par 66 at Corales Golf Course. He birdied Nos. 11 and 12 before running off four in a row at holes 14 through 17.

Martin, ranked No. 565 in the world, leads Adam Schenk by one stroke. Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Hayden Buckley and Vaughn Taylor shot 4-under 68 and are two back.

“I think on the back nine you want to take advantage of the par 5s and 15 (a par 4) because finishing on 16, 17, 18’s usually going to be into the wind and you really need to be in control of your golf ball,” Martin said. “So if you can make a few birdies coming in and just kind of hold on and make a few pars, you feel like it’s a win.”

Martin, 34, won his only PGA Tour event back in 2014.

McDowell, on the other hand, has a U.S. Open title on his resume and also won the Corales Puntacana Championship in 2019. The 42-year-old said there is a “uniqueness” to the tournament that he likes.

“The back nine especially here plays very difficult, very tricky, especially coming in,” he said. “I think having the chance to have experienced it a few times here, played well here under pressure in the wind and in contention, I think it certainly does bode well.”

Schenk, Buckley and McDowell finished their rounds without a bogey.

The tournament serves as an alternate event for those who did not qualify for the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, being held this week in Austin, Texas.

–Field Level Media