- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2016

BETHESDA|Steve Marino woke up at 5:50 a.m. on Thursday to the sound of rain and a text message that his 8:36 tee time in the first round of the Quicken Loans National was delayed two hours.

The 36-year-old, who went to Woodson High School in Fairfax and played collegiately at Virginia, didn’t mind that his return to Congressional Country Club was temporarily put on hold.

“I liked it,” Marino said. “I love the extra two hours of sleep.”

Well rested, Marino shot a four-under 67 and entered the weekend tied for 10th place.

“It felt really good to have a nice round,” Marino said. “This is the only hometown event I have and it’s fun to play in front of friends and family.”

The last time Marino played in Tiger Woods’ annual tournament at Congressional was in 2009, when the event was known as the AT&T National and Marino was on his way to the best year of his career. That year, he played in 29 events and logged five top-10 finishes to earn a career-high $2.2 million.

Two years later, Marino underwent surgery to repair bone contusions in his left knee and had another procedure in 2012. In December 2013, he broke his left leg when he stepped out of his boat and into a sandbar near his home in Jupiter, Fla.

“It sucked because finally my knee was healthy, and I felt like I was playing good and really looking forward to that season,” Marino said.

He played just 13 PGA Tour events in 2014 and spent most of the 2014-15 season on the Web.com tour before returning to the PGA in 2016. He entered the week having played 17 events this season.

Thursday’s performance was a refreshing start for Marino, who had missed the cut in five of eight events since losing in a playoff to Tony Finau in the Puerto Rico Open in March.

At the Puerto Rico Open, Marino’s brother, Scott, began serving as his caddie full-time. Scott had previously caddied for him in the past, but served as Will MacKenzie’s caddie before joining his brother full-time.

After seeing his brother take a circuitous route back to the PGA Tour, Scott was happy to see him respond with a strong first round on Thursday.

“It’s good for him, more so mentally,” Scott said. “The game tends to wear on everybody out here. To get a first solid round like that under his belt and get a little bit of confidence is huge. It’ll bring some good vibes for the weekend.”

On the 15th hole, Marino’s second shot landed in a green-side bunker, but he chipped out and made his putt to save par and remain at two-under. On the next hole, a 579-yard par 5, Marino sank an 11-footer for eagle. After a 298-yard drive, Marino aggressively went for green with his three wood and carried the ball 279 yards to set up the eagle putt.

“That was a bonus,” Marino said. “I wasn’t sure if I could get it there and swung really hard at it. When I hit it, I hit it really good and knew it was going to be close. When I got up there and saw it was 10 feet away it was a bonus.”

After bogeying the 17th, Marino bounced back with a birdie on the 18th to finish four under.

“I mean I haven’t been playing that great as of late, so I was super thrilled with a 67,” Marino said. “This course is really hard so to shoot four under, I’m really pleased with it.”

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