Webb Simpson and Matthew Fitzpatrick share the lead at 6-under par following day one of the WGC-Workday Championship.
The American Simpson finished his first round at The Concession Golf Club with one bogey offset by seven birdies, highlighted by a hat trick of gains on Nos. 15, 16 and 17 to secure a low-round 66.
“Very pleased with the start. I worked on a couple things last week with putting alignment and with my driver and I saw good things from that today,” said Simpson, who’s enjoyed a career resurgence since winning the 2018 PLAYERS Championship.
“You always want to see it first round back, but it doesn’t always happen that way, so I was happy to see like tough tee shots with trouble, really stepping up and making good swings. And made a lot of putts today, so that was a good feeling.”
Fitzpatrick got to 66 cleanly with 12 pars and six birdies – three of which were scored on the par-3s.
“Yeah, it was a good day today, obviously played well last week as well. Yeah, the golf course is in unbelievable shape. The greens are running about 12 on the Stimp, and that’s great for me, I love it when it’s like that,” said Fitzpatrick, who entered the week off a top-5 finish at Riviera.
“I think it makes you think, this golf course, you’ve got to think about where you’re hitting your tee shots and your approach shots. Yeah, you’ve got to be on the ball.”
A group of four players were tied for third on 5 under, including Brooks Koepka, Kevin Kisner, Sergio Garcia and Billy Horschel.
Koepka got off to a somewhat slow start, and was level-par through seven holes – offsetting a birdie with a bogey, but the four-time major winner finished his final 11 holes blemish-free while adding five more birdies to post a 67.
“I’ve been striking the ball so well. I love these new irons. The flight on them, it’s a little higher and just I’m striking the ball so well, so I expect to be there on Sunday,” said a confident-sounding Koepka, who won earlier this month in Phoenix.
A group of six more players were one further back on 4 under, headlined by world No.2 Jon Rahm and defending champion Patrick Reed, who finished his day with three-consecutive birdies to turn what had been a mediocre round into a great one.
Tony Finau, Wade Ormsby, Sungjae Im, and Cam Smith were the others in the T7 logjam.
Rory McIlroy was among another half-dozen players deadlocked on 3 under.
“I missed three putts on I guess the last nine holes that I thought for sure were going to be right to left, and all three on the right edge and they all missed on the right edge. Then I missed one on another hole that was right to left. I gave it a little less break because sort of the reaction to the other putts that I had missed just a little high and that one dove and broke left,” said McIlroy, explaining his struggles with the putter.
“Yeah, it’s hard. I mean, even the putt that I hit on the eighth hole there, the 17th hole for us for the day, I saw JT’s [Justin Thomas] on the same line as mine and his broke into the hole just off the right. I hit mine on the right edge, thought if it moves just a little bit it’s in the hole and it never budged.”
World No. 1 and pre-tournament favorite Dustin Johnson shot a 5-over par to sit T64.
Top-10 Leaders: Round 1
1. Webb Simpson -6
1. Matthew Fitzpatrick -6
3. Brooks Koepka -5
3. Billy Horschel -5
3. Sergio Garcia -5
3. Kevin Kisner -5
7. Jon Rahm -4
7. Patrick Reed -4
7. Tony Finau -4
7. Wade Ormsby -4
7. Sungjae Im -4
7. Cam Smith -4