October 8, 2020 - 6:12 pm
Updated October 8, 2020 - 6:18 pm
Maybe it’s the confidence coming off a dominating U.S. Open triumph. Maybe it’s playing a course where you’ve had success in the past. Or maybe it’s knowing you hit the golf ball farther than anybody else on the planet.
Whatever the reason, Bryson DeChambeau finds himself on top of the leaderboard after the first round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, carding a 9-under 62 at TPC Summerlin on Thursday.
It matched the lowest score DeChambeau has shot on the PGA Tour, yet he wasn’t pleased with the result.
“I didn’t hit it my best, but I put it in the right spots a lot of the times today,” said DeChambeau, who won this event in 2018.
His score could have been even lower. He had five eagle putts during the round and missed them all. That included two par-4s where he drove the green, including No. 7 where he launched his drive 361 yards to within 14 feet of the cup.
DeChambeau wasn’t alone in taking apart TPC Summerlin on Thursday. Austin Cook, Harold Varner III, Scott Harrington, Nate Lashley and 2017 champion Patrick Cantlay had 63s, and six others were another shot back.
Soft conditions, no wind and little rough made the course ripe for the taking.
“You can attack a lot of pins,” said Emiliano Grillo, who shot 64 in the second group out. “There’s just a few ones that you need to be careful. But if you’re hitting it solid, you’re going to have a lot of chances out there.”
Nobody had more chances than DeChambeau, who picked up right where he left off after his six-stroke win at the U.S. Open last month. He averaged 319 yards off the tee and hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation on his way to making nine birdies and nine pars.
His only shaky moment came at No. 2, his 11th hole of the day, where he arrived after making a career best five consecutive birdies.
DeChambeau launched his drive 341 yards left into the native area, chopped his second shot out 40 yards short of the green, then got up and down for par.
Cantlay, who lost a playoff last year to Kevin Na, had the best chance to catch DeChambeau among the afternoon players. He reached 7-under through 13 holes, but a three-putt led to bogey on No. 14, and he failed to take advantage of the short 15th.
“I just try to give myself as many opportunities as I can,” said Cantlay. “The birdies will come out here if you’re patient and play smart. Today they did, so hopefully the next three days are more of the same.”
Cook’s round came out of the blue after a 2019-20 season that included nine missed cuts and a finish no better than 39th after the restart in June. He wouldn’t even be in the field had the PGA Tour not extended everyone’s playing status for an extra year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He is looking to capitalize on the opportunity.
“I know I can play well, and today was really, really good for me mentally just to be able to see a low number out there again,” said Cook, an Arkansas native whose only career win came in 2017 at the RSM Classic.
Plenty of players were seeing low numbers on Thursday. The scoring average was a stunning 68.2, and the morning wave of 72 players saw just five rounds over par.
Among those going low was Varner, playing his first tournament in a month. He had nine birdies and a lone bogey when he failed to get up and down from a greenside bunker on No. 14.
“The best thing you can do when it’s this easy is just be patient,” said Varner, still looking for his first win on tour. “You never know when you’re going to rip five or six (birdies) off.”
Many of the bigger names in the field find themselves in the middle of the pack after one round.
Na and Sergio Garcia had 66s, Rickie Fowler a 67, Jason Day a 68 and Collin Morikawa a 69.
Unless the wind picks up or the course begins to dry out, scores should remain low as the week continues. With DeChambeau leading the way, the field will have its work cut out for it trying to chase him down.
And he knows it,.
“When I’m playing great golf, I feel like I have a great chance to win every week,” DeChambeau said. “But that doesn’t mean that somebody else isn’t going to play better than me, right? So they have a chance too, right?”
Another low round Friday could make that question moot.
Greg Robertson is a freelance reporter who covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.