Dallas — Denny McCarthy has some loose connections to Jordan Spieth and Tony Romo, the Trinity Forest members in the local spotlight. The former University of Virginia player is on top of the leaderboard after one round at the Byron Nelson.
McCarthy shot a career-low 8-under 63 on Thursday, with 10 birdies over a 12-hole stretch after an early double bogey to take a one-stroke lead over Tyler Duncan and Tom Hoge. Three-time major champion Brooks Koepka, the No. 3-ranked player in the world, was among nine players at 65.
“Gives me the confidence that I know that I can shoot rounds like this,” McCarthy said. “I’ve kind of been looking for a round like this just to kind of get me going. I know I can be out here playing with the best and today kind of showed that.”
Brian Stuard (Jackson is 4 under, tied for 22nd place. Joey Garber (Petsokey) is 3 under, tied for 36th.
McCarthy was part of the high school Class of 2011 that included three-time major champion Spieth and 2017 PGA Tour player of the year Justin Thomas. That impressive group also produced three consecutive PGA rookies of the year: Daniel Berger (2015), Emiliano Grillo (2016) and Xander Schauffele (2017).
All of those now mid-20 somethings have wins, except McCarthy, who is fully exempt on the PGA Tour this season for the first time after winning the Web.com Tour Championship last September.
His best PGA Tour finish in his first 42 tournaments was fourth last year in the Dominican Republic at an event opposite the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. McCarthy played his first two rounds at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club then with Romo, the CBS NFL analyst and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback who missed the cut there in his only two previous PGA Tour starts.
Romo, playing on a sponsor exemption as an amateur at home, had a 76 that included an opening birdie and a chip-in eagle from 66 feet at the 544-yard seventh hole . Those were his only subpar holes in a round with two double bogeys and four bogeys.
“Couple of the tee shots really cost me just because they’re penal in those areas. You can’t miss them there,” Romo said. “Like I said, the separation between these guys is the ability to do it for long stretches, consistency.”
Spieth had a 68 in the afternoon, when the wind picked up after mostly calm conditions for McCarthy and the rest of the morning starters at the links-style course inundated by heavy rain earlier in the week.
“Given the tougher conditions this afternoon and then tomorrow morning, it’s just kind of about hanging around and trying to make something happen on the weekend,” Spieth said.
McCarthy began his early round with three consecutive pars before a double bogey at the 437-yard fourth, when he had to take a penalty stroke after a wayward tee shot and eventually two-putted from 11 feet. He was still 2 over after another par at No. 5.
“(The double bogey) just kind of made me more calm after that,” McCarthy said. “I came out with the mindset I wanted to be aggressive and I wasn’t, and then after that double I kind of told myself, you know, just play really, really carefree and have fun with it.”
A 9-foot birdie at the 415-yard sixth was the first of five consecutive one-putt birdies, three of those under 6 feet. McCarthy needed only 22 putts, 10 on the back nine. His 10 birdies were three more than he had ever had in a tour round.
“I put in some really nice sessions on the range the last couple of weeks and I didn’t come out hitting it like I wanted to,” he said. “It’s easy just to not make a committed swing, and it cost me a couple shots there. But once I was aware that I wasn’t in that aggressive mindset, kind of put me right back in and was able to get the round going.”
All three of Koepka’s major wins have come since his last Nelson in 2017, when the tournament was still at the Four Seasons resort before moving south of downtown Dallas last year. He had never been on the front nine before Thursday, having practiced only on the back nine Tuesday before Wednesday’s pro-am was washed out.
After four consecutive birdies in the middle of his round (at Nos. 17, 18, 1 and 2), Koepka finished with three birdies and two bogeys on the last five holes. His approach at No. 6 went over the green into a bunker for a bogey, and his missed the green with his approach at No. 9, his finishing hole.
“Other than that, I struck the ball beautifully,” said Koepka, the two-time U.S. Open winner who next week will defend his PGA Championship title. “Hitting it good and putting it good, it doesn’t matter. Played a lot of golf courses where I really haven’t seen the golf course and gone to play. You’ve got a yardage book.”
Glen Day was 7 under through 16 holes to top the Regions Tradition leaderboard at Birmingham, Alabama, when bad weather halted the opening round of the first PGA Tour Champions major of the year.
After a two-tee start to try to beat the weather, lightning stopped play just after noon when Day was aiming for his second straight long birdie putt on Greystone’s Founders Course. Tour officials announced more than four hours later that the first round would resume early Friday.
Defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez and David Toms were two strokes back. Jimenez played 17 holes, and Toms finished 13.
Day made a third straight birdie on No. 16 and was lining up for a shot at another one when play was suspended.
Day predicted that “the scores will go way low” before the tournament is over – weather permitting.
“Now, if we want to call the tournament right now, I’m all for it,” he said, laughing. “I mean, we can call it now. But if we get in four rounds, there will be a lot of birdies made.
“Plus, with the weather that’s coming in, the golf course will be soft, the greens will be holding. They just firmed up a little bit and they’re going to be really good. I think the scores will go way low.”
Day is seeking his first win on the senior tour. His only PGA Tour victory came in 1999.
Jimenez, who started on the 10th hole, shot 37 on the first nine. He then had birdies on six of his next seven. He won his first senior major last year at the Regions Tradition, when he held or shared the lead after all four rounds.
Billy Andrade finished with a 4-under 68 after posting six birdies and a pair of bogeys. Two-time champion Bernhard Langer, winner of a record 10 senior major championships, was 3 under with one hole to play.
Matthew Jordan made the most of his late invitation to the British Masters by shooting 9-under 63 at Southport, England, to take a two-stroke lead after the first round.
Playing just his 12th event as a professional, the 23-year-old Jordan defied wet and chilly conditions at Hillside in northwest England to make nine birdies in a bogey-free round.
Fellow Englishman Matt Wallace and Marcus Kinhult of Sweden were tied for second place.
Jordan turned professional in September 2018 after a stellar amateur career which saw him reach fifth in the world rankings. He is from nearby Hoylake, a seaside town which is one of the British Open hosts.
“I’ve known him for a long time, we all know what he’s capable of,” said Tommy Fleetwood, who was five shots off the lead after an opening 68.
Jordan’s best result to date is a tie for seventh in a Challenge Tour event in Turkey two weeks ago when he carded a second-round 62. His career earnings of 57,000 pounds ($74,000) are dwarfed by the first prize of 500,000 pounds ($650,000) on offer this week.
Jordan is currently relying on invitations after failing to advance beyond the second stage of the qualifying school but Fleetwood, who is hosting this British Masters, insisted on leaving the decision over who received them this week to European Tour officials despite the pair’s friendship.
“I knew one of his good friends who played with him in the England squad and I said cheekily could I play with Tommy if I ever get the chance,” Jordan said. “We played a couple of times at Hoylake and he’s a really, really nice guy. I got the invitation on Sunday and I’m very thankful to have the opportunity.”
Lee Westwood birdied six of his first seven holes before having to settle for a 66 and a tie for fourth place with Richie Ramsay, Robert Karlsson and Thomas Detry.