SAN MARTIN -- Alex Aragon was eating breakfast Thursday morning at CordeValle Golf Club when he got the good news.
The former Stanford player learned he was not only in the Frys.com Open field, but he would be teeing off in an hour. He warmed up, shot a 3-under 68 and will enter Friday's second round four strokes off the lead.
"I got a great break and so I've got to take advantage of it," said Aragon, 34, the tournament's first alternate who replaced the injured John Merrick.
First-round leader Jeff Overton shot a 7-under 64, with 32s on each nine and an eagle on the par-5 ninth hole.
Brian Harman was a shot back on the 7,368-yard course, and Kyle Stanley was in third place with a 66.
Small galleries watched a diverse field of up-and-comers and PGA Tour veterans in optimal scoring conditions.
Japanese phenom Hideki Matsuyama, 21, the only player in the field ranked in the world's top 30, shot a 70. Former Cal star Charlie Wi was in a group of six at 67. Defending champion Jonas Blixt, Davis Love III and Vijay Singh were among 15 players, including Cal's Max Homa in his pro debut, at 2 under.
Players all seemed to enjoy the CordeValle course -- and the sites.
"Any time you can get an old country boy out here looking at turkeys and deer up on the hill, funny enough way to play out here in California," said Harman, a native of Savannah, Ga. "It's a beautiful place, and I'm real happy to be here."
No one seemed happier than Aragon, a Web.com Tour graduate who is in a nine-player logjam in 10th. Aragon had five birdies over his final 11 holes, but he could be sharper off the tee.
"I haven't been driving the ball well at all," said Aragon, who learned at 6:45 a.m. that he'd be playing. "I was smart with where I missed it all day, except for one hole when I hit it in the junk."
The Frys.com Open, in its ninth year, is leading off the 2013-14 PGA Tour season and is among six tournaments in a fall wraparound series.
Aragon thought he'd have to sit this one out.
"I had resigned myself to zero," Aragon said of his chances of playing. "I guess I got to send John Merrick a gift basket.
"I was just hopeful to get to play. But you don't root against anyone out here, just for the sake of karma. I'm too superstitious to do anything like that."
Aragon, who turned pro in 2001, has paid his dues. He won the TPC Stonebrae in Hayward in 2012 in the Nationwide Tour (now the Web.com Tour) after playing sparingly the previous two years. Then he missed the cut in eight of his next 10 Web.com events.
But he's been coming on, including winning the Web.com WNB Golf Classic title in 2013, finishing second in the Air Capital Classic and tying for seventh in the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship on Sept. 15. He missed the cut at the Web.com Tour Championship on Sept. 29.
"I was thinking that in Jacksonville (Fla.) at the end of the Web.com Tour," he said, "I was pretty upset, actually. It doesn't make sense to me why you wouldn't have it at 144. ... That was just a terrible mistake by them because there's no reason why one of the guys on the Web.com would not get a chance to play."
Overton, 30, who changed his grip about three months ago after battling tendinitis in his wrist, is seeking the first victory in his ninth year on tour. He agreed the course suited his eye.
"I played here last year for the first time, and I loved it. I thought it was great," Overton said.
Overton made headlines in May when he was disqualified from the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial for illegally using a putting aid while waiting to tee off at No. 10.