Webb Simpson fired a bogey-free 9-under 61 and will take a one-shot lead into Friday’s second round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
The 32-year old North Carolinian was just 2 under through eight holes but then poured it on with a hat trick of birdies on Nos. 9-11, an eagle on No. 12, and then two more gains on Nos. 14 and 16 to reach 9-under par.
“I’ve had a good last couple days here after a week off, so I was confident. But you never, you know shoot 9-under thinking before the round, today’s going to be my day,” said Simpson, the reigning PLAYERS Champion.
“So it was a good solid start, couple under early, and then hit that stretch, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14.
“You know, 13 was one of those miracle pars. So I should have made bogey or worse there, but somehow hit the cart, stayed in play, and made par.
“But delighted with the round. You know, great start for round one.”
“I’m feeling really good and confident. Putts are going in, so I’m feeling really good about my game,”
Despite the low score, Simpson clings to a one shot advantage over Korean Whee Kim who carded a 10-birdie round of 62 to sit solo-two at 8-under par.
“I had a really good start the first five holes. Started with four birdies in a row, and I was really comfortable with really good iron shots, and never missed birdie,” said Kim, who finished with a field-best 10 birdies.
“So, yeah, I think I played really good for first round.”
Joaquin Niemann was one further back at 7 under following a flawless day-one 64. The Chilean young gun was one clear of Kelly Kraft (65), and two up on Keegan Bradley, J.J. Henry, and Jason Kokrak who sat T5 at 5-under 66.
Defending champion Xander Schauffele and fan favorite Phil Mickelson headline a 16-player logjam at 4-under 67.
Two tournament favorites, Tony Finau (68) and Bubba Watson (69), remain in the chase.
TOP 10: ROUND ONE
1. Webb Simpson -9
2. Whee Kim -8
3. Joaquin Niemann -7
4. Kelly Kraft -6
5. Keegan Bradley -5
5. J.J. Henry -5
5. Jason Kokrak -5
8. Steve Wheatcroft -4
8. Tom Hoge -4
8. Austin Cook -4
8. Xander Schauffele -4
8. Ryan Moore -4
8. Billy Hurley III -4
8. Ollie Schniederjans -4
8. Harold Varner, III -4
8. Robert Streb -4
8. Zecheng Dou -4
8. David Lingmerth -4
8. Kevin Chappell -4
8. Brandt Snedeker -4
8. Phil Mickelson -4
8. Chad Campbell -4
8. Stephan Jaeger -4
24. Tony Finau -3
44. Bubba Watson -2
44. Russell Henley -2
44. Charles Howell III -2
64. Kevin Kisner -1
87. Patton Kizzire E
87. J.B. Holmes E
149. Jimmy Walker +5
153. John Daly +7
STATS: WEBB SIMPSON IN THE LEAD
Driving: 323.7 yards
Fairways: 10/14, 71.4%
Greens: 17/18, 94.4%
Par-3 Scoring: E (4 Pars)
Par-4 Scoring: -7 (7 Birdies, 5 Pars)
Par-5 Scoring: -2 (1 Eagle, 1 Par)
Aggregate Scoring: -9 (1 Eagle, 7 Birdies, 10 Pars)
VIDEO: SIMPSON’S EAGLE CHIP-IN
On hole No. 13, Webb Simpson chips in his Titleist Pro V1 for an eagle-3 to cap off a five-hole stretch of 6 under.
EXIT QUESTION FOR WEBB SIMPSON
Q: You’re able to tie your career low with a 61, but you also look up and you’re only one shot up. How difficult is it, especially with three rounds left, just to keep the emotions in check, and not get too high or too low after today’s round?
SIMPSON: “I mean, I think I’ve been in a position where I’ve played a great first round enough to know that there is so much golf to play. So I’m not really — I’ll enjoy the round tonight and talk to my wife about it. But there’s still a lot of work to do.
“So I think emotionally tomorrow morning I’ll come out the exact same as if I shot 71 or a 68. You know, go out and try to put another solid round together and see where, you know, what the other guys do.”