Nassau, November 30, 2018: The two Patricks in the field, Cantlay and Reed, shared the lead at the rather benign and generous Albany course with seven-under 65 each in the first round of the Hero World Challenge on Thursday evening. The duo was three shots clear of the field.
On a day when some of the leaders brought in low scores, tournament host Tiger Woods drove well, missing just one fairway. While he seemed to have recovered from the cold and cough that he had for the past few days, he however returned a 73, including a card-wrecking triple bogey, for one of the only three over-par cards of the day.
Cantlay, a former World No. 1 amateur for a 54 successive weeks, a record that still stands, learnt of his call-up for the high-profile event only two weeks ago. He started modestly today with six pars before back-to back birdies on the 7th and 8th. He turned in two-under and stayed as such till he came to the 13th. On his last six holes, he rolled in five birdies – the lone exception being the Par-4 16th for a day’s work of 65, which included a 28-foot curling birdie on the Par-5 15th.
Californian Cantlay is donating $500 per birdie this week to ‘California Strong’, which is collecting funds to help families affected by the recent wildfires.
Masters champion Reed, one of the few Americans who loves to travel to other parts of the world, had a nice spread of four birdies on either side of the turn. His sole blemish was a bogey on Par-3 eighth.
Reed joined Cantlay after his pitch on 16th landed within three feet for a birdie and he added to that by holding a 12-foot curler for birdie on 18th.
In his last three starts, Reed has played in Shanghai (WGC-HSBC, T-7), Dubai (DP World Tour, T-2) and Hong Kong Open (T-45).
Cantlay had never played the course before the 10 holes he got in on Tuesday and then the Wednesday Pro-Am. Last week, he hardly practiced after a sinus surgery.
“Yeah, (I am) still trying to figure out the golf course. So I feel like I know it a little better after today and really looking forward to playing the rest of the three days. It’s a fun event, Tiger’s a great host and I’m happy to be here,” said Cantlay, who was second at Shriners, a tournament he won for his maiden PGA Tour success in 2017.
He only found out he was in the field two weeks ago, was slow to get going, earning back to back birdies to make the turn in two under. But his short game came to the fore coming home as he notched up five birdies in his final six holes. The highlight of that final stretch was a 28-foot curler for birdie on the par five 15th.
Reed had a 10-foot birdie putt on the last to tie Cantlay for the lead and judged the pace to perfection, rolling it in for his eighth birdie of the day.
Henrik Stenson would love nothing more than picking a late win in a year that has given him little joy other than the Ryder Cup success. He shot 68 and shared the second place with Dustin Johnson, who has not been able to get his World No. 1 status back since losing it in October.
Since Johnson was displaced from No. 1, Justin Rose and the absent Brooks Koepka have alternately held that place.
The local Bahamas resident Rose, currently second, needs to finish in Top-3 to get his World No.1 ranking back from Koepka.
He was Tied-7th alongside Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau, all of who shot a modest 70 apiece.
The shot of the day came from Rose, whose superb wood landed to two feet from the pin on 11th for an eagle to get to three-under. But on the very next hole, 12th, he made a double bogey.
Woods was level par till the 11th. On the 12th, his chip from the left rough rolled back down the slope and past his feet and trickled into the water, resulting in a six on his card. Woods, who can get into Top-10 with a victory this week had four birdies, but also two bogeys in his first five holes besides the crippling triple.
Woods admitted, “I didn’t quite feel comfortable with my game today even though I drove it great. It was definitely reflective in my scoring today, I didn’t quite feel comfortable and just didn’t quite hit the ball close enough or give myself a lot of looks at it.”
He added, “Well, I’m feeling a lot better today, for sure. It’s been a long last week or so. At least this tournament’s now started and we’ve got it underway, now I’m back into the rhythm of playing again, which is nice.”
Two-times Masters Winner, Bubba Watson, playing with reigning Masters Champion Reed, enjoyed a share of the early lead when he made the turn at four under. But he failed on the back nine, where he had a double bogey on the par three 17th.
Watson is T-5 with European Ryder Cup star Alex Noren, whose colourful scorecard had an eagle, five birdies and four bogeys for 69.
Another European star, Jon Rahm seemed fine at three-under before finding water on 18th and coming out with a double bogey and a card of 71.
The Hero World Challenge – with an 18-man field – is a specially sanctioned event by the PGA Tour and has 52 World Ranking points this year, one of the highest ever in recent history of the event.
It features 14 of the world’s top 20 and five former world number ones and nine major champions.