After a week that took roughly 47 days to complete, it is Friday. We hope happy hour comes a bit early for you today.
Sneedeker, Sneedeker, Sneedeker
Intricate greens and demanding pins proved a worthy test for the PGA Tour in the first round of the Vivint Houston Open. While generous off the tee, Memorial Park allowed just 43 (out of 132) scores of even-par 70 or better on Thursday. The first-round scoring average was a touch above 72 (which is, incidentally, the everyday par of Memorial Park), making it the third-highest-scoring opening round of 2020. Only the first rounds of the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields and the U.S. Open at Winged Foot had higher first-round averages in relation to par (h/t Sean Martin). Vivint Houston Open Leaderboard
Brandt Snedeker, who finished 162nd in driving distance in 2019-20, is your leader after a round of 65. There are four other players in the top 10—Michael Thompson, Adam Long, Kevin Streelman, and Greg Chalmers—who finished outside the top 100 in driving distance last season. While fairly long, Memorial Park, as it was set up today, primarily rewarded precise approach play and excellence on and around the greens. Long hitters like Cameron Davis, Adam Scott, Taylor Gooch, and Sam Burns are also in the mix, however, making for a diverse and enticing leaderboard heading into Friday.
Here’s what a few players had to say about Houston’s refreshed municipal layout:
Cameron Davis: “The penalty for just missing on the wrong side becomes really big because the ball just rolls away. It’s been a while since I’ve played a course on Tour that’s really done that and it’s great. It reminds me a lot of back in Australia.”
Shane Lowry: “You’re hitting a lot of mid to long irons out here. You need to be very precise with your iron shots…. You know, other than the grass, it kind of has most other things that you would want to get ready for next week.”
Tony Finau: “I think the par 3s are great. No. 9 is a great hole. On the back nine, I’m a huge fan of No. 15. I think it’s 112 yards today, and it’s probably going to average over par just the way the green is. It’s like a mountain; you either hit it on the green or it’s going to be really hard to get up and down.”
Adam Scott: “I can see this week is going to be one of those long weeks on the golf course. It’s a pretty relentless golf course. It demands a lot of good hitting. And then the greens are beautiful, but they’re tricky to putt on, so it’s going to be a grind this week.”
Other Houston Open notes
A limited number of fans, all wearing masks and encouraged to be socially distant, were allowed at the Houston Open on Thursday. While there were also fans on the grounds at the Bermuda Championship last weekend, they were much more noticeable and vocal at Memorial Park. Golf Channel’s Ryan Lavner collected players’ reactions to the galleries and the added buzz on the grounds.
Jordan Spieth hovered around the lead for much of the morning before going six over par in his final six holes. There’s not much more to say about Mr. Spieth’s current form, but we certainly hope he finds something at Augusta National.
Occupying another seat on the struggle bus was Sam Ryder. After his approach on the 13th hole, Ryder was 42’ 9” from the pin, just right of the green. Eight shots later, he walked away with a sextuple-bogey 10. We’re not trying to rag on the poor guy, but his ping-ponging across the 13th green depicted the kind of defense that short grass can provide around greens.
At just 112 yards, the par-3 15th played over par during the first round.
Robert MacIntyre leads the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown after the first round, but the leader is unusually irrelevant given the event’s format. After two rounds, the top 32 at Aphrodite Hills will advance, and scores will be reset for Saturday’s round. Then, on Sunday, they will be reset again for a winner-take-all final round. Survive and advance. Leaderboard
The Symetra Tour Championship comes to a close on Friday. Frida Kinhult holds a six-shot lead after 54 holes at River Run Country Club in North Carolina. Following the event, the top five players in the season-long Volvik Race for the Card will receive spots in the U.S. Women’s Open in December. Symetra Tour Championship Leaderboard
Bernhard Langer will vie for his sixth Charles Schwab Cup on the PGA Tour Champions this weekend. Ernie Els and Miguel Ángel Jiménez are his closest challengers. Charles Schwab Cup Championship Tee Times
Bryson DeChambeau played a recent practice round at Augusta National. According to Joel Beall’s sources, Bryson had less than 100 yards into No. 1 and No. 18, reached No. 3 with a fairway wood, had a 6-iron into the par-5 8th hole, and had a 9-iron or wedge into No. 15. Should be an interesting Masters.
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