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Stephen Curry is doing better in pro golf events than anyone could have expected

He’s not playing in the PGA Championship, but Stephen Curry’s round on the Web Tour may have been the best of the day from any event.

Ellie Mae Classic - Round One Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

There’s a major championship going on in St. Louis, but the most impressive pro golf round of the day may have occurred in California. That’s where Stephen Curry, playing for the second straight year in the Tour’s Ellie Mae Classic, posted an opening round 71.

I am not saying Curry’s 71 was the best round of the day in golf. Rickie Fowler posted a 65 on a tougher course against a stronger field and under major championship pressure. But given the circumstances and the fact that, uh, Curry has another full-time job that he’s pretty good at, a 1-over 71 on a Tour as competitive as the Web is outrageously impressive. It’s arguably the best of the day, even if there were lower numbers elsewhere.

The 71 put Curry in a tie for 109th, so he’s not exactly threatening to win and it will probably take a miracle round to make the cut. But still! 71! That’s extremely good golf when you’re not spending all your time practicing this, as every other player in the field does.

Last year, Steph posted 74-74 and missed the cut while beating four other pros in the field. Returning again this year, I expected something similar, if not worse. When I checked in early in his round, he was a quick 3-over in his first seven holes and it looked like a big number was coming on the scorecard. I toggled back over to the PGA Championship.

On the Web Tour, you have to go absurdly low just to be competitive. The courses are not difficult and are set up easier and these are all players that could compete on the PGA Tour in any week. At the top of the world rankings, the best separate themselves over months and years-long intervals. But weekly, the margins can be nothing between any Web player and a PGA Tour player. These Web pros are world-class — the AAA baseball metaphor doesn’t even fully work, because they’re that competitive and close to the big leagues.

So when I saw Curry wasn’t making birdies and actually going the wrong way, I thought it would get ugly. Then I checked back in and, well, holly crap! Curry posted three birdies in a six-hole stretch and closed with an inward 2-under 33. It took 12 holes, but once he finally posted his first red number, he had to stop and give his caddie a hug to celebrate.

The birdie run included this pin-seeker that nearly went in the cup. This is crazy — I cannot overstate this enough. This is beyond expectations and he almost had a hole-out highlight to add to the show.

We got into the benefits of having Curry play these events last year. It’s nothing but good for the game, even if he had ended up posting some astronomical number. But a 71?

After the round, Curry said he is not trying to do anything special. He’s trying to hit the same shot over and over and not move it in different directions or change trajectories like the pros do all around him. He’s paired with Cameron Champ, who, if you haven’t heard of him, you will soon. Champ is a game-changing power. He hits the ball 350 yards with ease. He cuts off doglegs, goes up-and-over trees, and puts the ball in places that make almost every hole a pitch-and-putt. He overwhelms courses to the point where he might embarrass the ruling bodies into a rollback of equipment. While he’s not on the big Tour yet — he will be next year — this is the kind of talent so illustrative of the enormous gulf between a high-level pro and just a guy who is great at golf and maybe a scratch player that wins the local club championship.

Curry is that kind of amateur — an amazing player but not a pro. He relayed a humorous story after the round, saying Champ gave him an ego boost when both of their drives finished on the same line and Champ double-checked the one at 310 yards to make sure it wasn’t his before proceeding to the one way out at 345. He watched Champ up-close do things that he just cannot do (which is fine, Champ can’t play basketball as well as Steph can play golf). Then he went out and posted his own 71. Given the talent all around him and pressure of playing against those who do this for a living, it’s arguably most impressive score posted in a pro event on Thursday.