The PGA Tour returned to the U.S. this week, where Rod Pampling nearly made some history. Here’s how things look after the first round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, where Pampling leads by two shots:
Leaderboard: Rod Pampling (-11), Brooks Koepka (-9), John Huh (-9), Billy Horschel (-7), Matt Jones (-6), Luke List (-6)
What it means: Pampling was one of the first players out in the opening round, and he almost became the seventh player in Tour history to break 60. Instead he settled for a share of the course record, and after gaining entry into this week’s field only by a clerical error the Aussie now has a head start as he looks for his first win in 10 years.
Round of the day: Pampling got things started with a hole-out eagle from 134 yards on No. 6, then challenged a 59 after a tap-in eagle on the par-5 16th. Instead he closed with a pair of pars, missing a 12-foot putt for birdie and a 59 on No. 18. In all Pampling circled seven birdies in addition to the two eagles, going out in 29 and back in 31 on the par-71 layout.
Best of the rest: Koepka shot his career best round, a 9-under 62 that moves him into contention as he looks to win for the second time. Koepka was a standout at last month’s Ryder Cup, and after a T-40 finish in China he caught fire on the greens at TPC Summerlin, holing four different putts from more than 20 feet to move within two of Pampling.
Biggest disappointment: There are plenty of big names in this week’s field, but it looks like Jimmy Walker won’t be around for the weekend after opening with a 3-over 75. Walker earned his major breakthrough at the PGA earlier this summer, but he struggled to five bogeys during an opener that left him 14 shots off the lead.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Can Pampling keep up the pace? The 47-year-old shouldn’t even be in the field in Sin City, but he has made the most of his opportunity after 18 holes. He’ll need to keep his foot on the gas, though, as Koepka and Horschel are both formidable opponents who will likely challenge for the lead over the weekend.
Shot of the day: Pampling was 9 under on the day when he hit his 233-yard approach to within 6 inches on No. 16, setting up a tap-in eagle that gave him a chance to shoot 59.
Quote of the day: “I thought it was straight, but it just had that little left-to-right.” – Pampling on his putt for 59.