BY CHIP CIRILLO
Robby Shelton said the cup looked like a basketball goal.
The former Alabama All-American shot an 8-under-par 64 to take the first-day lead at the Nashville Golf Open at the Nashville Golf & Athletic Club in Brentwood on Thursday.
Shelton’s fourth straight birdie on his final hole gave him a one-stroke lead over Brandon Matthews.
“The cup: you can see all the white paint in the hole,” Shelton said. “It just looks really big. It looks like the ball has to go in and that’s what everybody wants, honestly, just to have that feeling.”
Theo Humphrey, the 2018 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year at Vanderbilt, shot a 3-over-par 75.
He had four birdies and seven bogeys at the Web.com Tour event benefiting the Snedeker Foundation.
Dawson Armstrong, a former Lipscomb University/Academy standout and Brentwood native, shot a 3-over-par 75. He carded two birdies and four bogeys.
Shelton was the 2014 SEC Player of the Year as a freshman on Alabama’s NCAA champion team.
“I played with all the big guys and I could compete with them, and I’m just trying to prove it again here on the big tour,” Shelton said.
He scorched the 7,600-yard course with seven birdies, one eagle and a bogey.
“Pretty much everything, honestly,” Shelton said when asked what went well for him. “Any 64 you’re playing well with your whole game. I putted well coming down the stretch.”
Shelton tied for fourth at the Dormie Network Classic at Briggs Ranch last week.
He took second at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship two weeks ago.
“My swing just feels really good,” Shelton said. “I mean, it’s easy right now for me. My game’s in a really good spot, the best I’ve seen it in a long time.”
Shelton said it’s hard to hit a bad golf shot right now.
“I’m seeing my line, seeing my target and the ball’s going in,” Shelton said.
He was nearly halfway through his round when there was a one-hour, 40-minute lightning delay in the afternoon.
Darkness halted play for 33 golfers, who will finish their round with a 7:30 a.m. restart Friday.
Shelton said the delay helped him because the wind stopped completely and the greens were softer.
He called his eagle on the 569-yard 15th hole the turning point.
The 6-foot-4 Matthews missed all six cuts in his previous Web.com Tour appearances this season.
“As well as anybody knows out here, when you get things going in the wrong direction it honestly feels like you just never get a good break,” Matthews said. “That’s the way I was feeling for a little while. The last two tournaments I actually hit the ball pretty well, especially last week.
“Even though I was 1-under and missed the cut by four or whatever it was, I was three swings away from being 10- or 11-under going into the weekend.”
Matthews started a hot streak on his ninth hole with birdies on seven of eight holes.
“I started really getting it rolling starting on 18,” said Matthews, who began the round on the 10th hole. “Just missed an eagle putt there, birdied the first four on the front, I think. It feels good. Like I said, the hard work I’ve put in is finally getting validated.”
Matthews, 24, was even-par through eight before heating up.
“I just started hitting clubs the right weight,” Matthews said. “We were struggling on the first eight holes to get the right weight on the clubs, came up a little short. I finally started getting the distances a little bit better and we got a couple better looks at it.”
Matthews believes patience is the key to following up with another good round Friday.
“I think one of my biggest assets in my game is my patience out there,” Matthews said. “No matter what’s going on, I always stay patient. Going into tomorrow, I’ve just got to go in with the same mindset.
“Things might not happen quickly, they might happen quickly. Who knows? You’ve just got to take it one step at a time out there.”
The former Temple star enjoyed his first bogey-free round since July 2018.
“Anytime you go bogey-free it’s great,” said Matthews, who lives in Jupiter, Fla. “I don’t think I even had a stressful one all day. It’s fun. If I stick to the game plan, play smart and stay patient out there, I think it’s going to be a pretty good week.”
Garrett Osborn is third with a 5-nder 67. Scottie Scheffler and Chase Seiffert were tied for fourth at 4-under 68.
“I had a good stretch 18 through 3,” Scheffler said of his string of four straight birdies. “We had to play 11 holes through some pretty gusty wind. It was challenging.”
He’s posted three consecutive top-10 finishes.
Photo from the Web.com Tour.