On a morning when 2010 winner Rory McIlroy started with a double-bogey 6 before having to settle for a disappointing four-over 76, Buckley became just the 11th player to make an ace at the penultimate hole on the Stadium Course in Ponte Vedra Beach in golf’s so-called fifth major.
His pitching wedge for the 124-yard shot landed about 20 feet beyond the hole but caught the top of a slope, with the ball slowly trundling down it before disappearing into the cup.
“It really felt like there could have been a little bit of hurt (in the wind) and I knew if I could hit somewhere around a 130-yard shot, hit one pretty straight, hope for it to land somewhere around the hill, and it just looked perfect the whole way,” said Buckley, who celebrated with a dance of joy on the tee before tossing his hat high into the air.
“I had a little feeling something like that might happen this week. I've been hitting it well, but it's always nice to see it happen on that hole, too,” he added.
It was the 27-year-old’s second ace on the PGA Tour, having made the first one, which also came on the 17th hole, at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas in the 2021 Shriners Children’s Open.
“I think a lot of people made fun of me the last time I made a hole-in-one in my rookie year. I didn’t have much of a reaction,” he said, smiling. ”I guess I had to have a little bit more of a reaction this time. I had friends and my wife in the crowd, so I had to entertain them a little bit.”
Buckley, who started at the tenth, followed his ace by rolling in a 25-footer from the fringe for a birdie at the 18th before also picking up a shot at the first but, after dropping six shots in his final seven holes, he had to settle for a one-over 73. “I hit it in some bad places,” he said of the finish.
Ramey, the world No 225, set the clubhouse target with a brilliant bogey-free 64, which came shortly after 2020 Open champion Collin Morikawa had signed for an equally-impressive 65 that included an eagle-3 at the second – his 11th hole.
“I might have made it look that way but it wasn't easy at all,” said Ramey, who won the Corales Puntacana Championship on the PGA Tour last March, of his fairytale debut in the $25 million event. “It was fun to shoot a score first time on such an iconic course like this. You can't ask for any more.”
Two-time major winner Morikawa was also with his day’s work. “Overall, the game feels really good, and I'm just going to take that into the next few days and just kind of use that momentum to hopefully play three more really good rounds,” he said.
Australian Min Woo Lee, the 2021 Genesis Scottish Open champion, opened with a 68, finishing birdie-bogey-bogey after he was treated for cramp on the 15th tee. “It was a weird one because I had never experienced that before,” he said afterwards.
“At the beginning of the week, I thought I had an allergic reaction to the electrolytes I was having, and if you don't have electrolytes you get cramps and then I got a cramp. Yeah, it put the puzzle pieces together, and that's what happened. The physio said it was just an overstretch.”
Playing in the same group as McIlroy, world No 1 Jon Rahm had a frustrating day on the greens as he signed for a 71 but, helped by picking up three shots in the last four holes, second-ranked Scottie Scheffler signed for a 68.
In the afternoon wave, Russell Knox, who tied for sixth behind the absent Cameron Smith 12 months ago, finished birdie-bogey for a 75, one less than Martin Laird after he had to wait until his final hole for a solitary birdie.
Due to darkness, the first round was suspended at 6.28 pm, with 21 players yet to complete their round.