Thursday's golf: Huh shoots career-best 61 at Wyndham; Stuard in contention
Greensboro, N.C. — John Huh wasn’t expecting the lowest round of his PGA Tour career Thursday in the Wyndham Championship, and he had no complaints about the score or the timing.
Huh made seven of his eight birdie attempts from 10 feet or closer and holed a 40-foot eagle putt on the par-5 15th hole at Sedgefield for a 9-under 61, giving him a two-shot lead over Sungjae Im in the final tournament of the regular season.
“It’s kind of strange because like earlier I mentioned, I wasn’t really feeling great with my game and (to) shoot my career low, it’s kind of weird,” Huh said. “Sort of mixed feelings, but I’ll take this any day.”
Huh needed a round like this. He is No. 120 in the FedEx Cup – with some wiggle room because of the defectors to Saudi-funded LIV Golf – and only the top 125 advance to the lucrative postseason next week and are assured a full PGA Tour card for next season.
“I know what’s on the line, I know how important this tournament would be,” Huh said. “At the same time you’ve just got to go and play and I think I did that really well today.”
Im had two eagles in his round of 63. At a true No. 15 in the FedEx Cup, he already is set for the postseason and a good week might be able to sew up his spot in the finale at East Lake.
Peter Malnati and Brandon Wu were at 64.
Far more relevant was the group at 65, which includes Austin Smotherman. He is list at No. 135 in the FedEx Cup, but he would count as No. 125 – the cutoff – because 10 players ahead of him have been suspended for signing on with LIV Golf.
The suspended players would be line in to receive FedEx Cup bonus money without playing. The PGA Tour said last week a player’s FedEx Cup ranking would not be affected by those have gone over to LIV Golf.
Smotherman missed only two greens and kept bogeys off his card. Three others at 65 – Ben Kohles (181), Cameron Percy (170) and Jackson native Brian Stuard (148) were outside the top 125.
Also at 65 was Aaron Wise, who is at No. 34 in the standings and is looking to improve his ranking going into the lucrative FedEx Cup playoffs. Wise had a five-hole stretch on the back nine that he played in 5-under par, including a 30-foot eagle putt on the 15th, until missing the fairway and failing to save par from beyond the green at the 18th.
Will Zalatoris, at No. 14 in the world the highest-ranked player in the field, was hopeful of moving into the top 10 in the FedEx Cup and collecting bonus money from the regular season. A two-time runner-up in majors this year, he opened with a 71 and next had to worry about making the cut.
Rickie Fowler also had a 71 playing in the afternoon. Fowler is No. 123 in the FedEx Cup – accounting for the suspended players ahead of him – and likely will need to make the cut to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight season.
Huh now has three rounds at 62 or lower on the PGA Tour – he had a 62 at Sedgefield in 2013 and a 62 in Las Vegas in 2016 – and made this one look easy.
Starting on the fourth hole, he ran off five straight birdies, the longest one at 10 feet. After his long eagle putt, he holed a 4-foot putt for birdie on the 17th.
“I hit it close enough, gave myself a chance,” Huh said. “The longest putt I made was for eagle, but other than that, I put it pretty much inside 10 feet and made all that.”
Women's British Open
Muirfield, Scotland — Playing in borrowed clothes doesn’t seem to bother Jessica Korda at the Women’s British Open.
Still waiting for her suitcase to arrive in Muirfield, Korda recovered from an early bogey to shoot a 5-under 66 in the first round Thursday, putting her one shot behind leader Hinako Shibuno of Japan.
Korda made four birdies and an eagle on the 17th despite missing her normal clothes after her luggage got stuck at an airport in Switzerland.
“If anyone knows anyone at the Zurich airport that would like to put my suitcase on the one flight a day that they have coming into Edinburgh, I’d deeply appreciate it,” Korda said. “I know where it is, I have an air tag on it. I can’t get anyone to actually go get it. … Monday I wore Megan Khang’s pants. Tuesday, I wore my sister’s pants and Wednesday I wore Alison Lee’s pants. Today I’m wearing FootJoy pants.”
Shibuno, the 2019 champion, made birdies on the first three holes and went on to card eight in total in her 65. Scotland’s Louise Duncan and Mexico’s Gabby Lopez were tied for third, two shots back.
“It has been a long time since I’ve played this well, especially putting. Honestly it was a little frightening,” Shibuno said through an interpreter. “I haven’t changed much. My caddie told me that my body balance was off when I was missing putts. Once I focused on this, I could play much better.”
Nelly Korda, Jessica’s sister, was tied for 13th after shooting a 70.
Catriona Matthew, also a former Women’s British Open champion and two-time winning captain in the Solheim Cup, was selected to hit the opening tee shot Thursday after growing up close to Muirfield, which is hosting the event for the first time. It was only six years ago that Muirfield didn’t allow women to even set foot in the clubhouse.
Matthew struggled to a 5-over 76, making double bogeys on the first and 10th and failing to make a single birdie.
“Being the first women’s pro event to be played here, it’s great, and me being local it was a huge honor to hit the first tee shot,” Matthew said. “Apart from the two doubles I actually played quite well. It’s a little frustrating.”