By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
LAS VEGAS -- J.J. Henry made a 50-foot eagle putt on his final hole Thursday to shoot 11-under 60 in the first round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. He holds a one-shot lead over Andres Romero after setting the course record at TPC Summerlin.
Henry made the turn in 4-under 32, then shot 28 on his second nine. He played his final six holes in 6 under to shoot the lowest round of his career.
"I finally made some putts," Henry said. "I've always felt like I've been a pretty good ball striker, and when I make some putts I seem to climb the leaderboard."
James Driscoll, Jonathan Byrd and Jeff Overton are tied for third after shooting 63, while Webb Simpson is another shot back.
Henry is coming off a 16th-place finish in the season-opening Frys.com Open. "With the changes, I thought it was important to try to get myself off to a good start," Henry said, referring to the PGA TOUR's inaugural wraparound schedule. He is making his first appearance in this event since 2009; he never finished better than 46th in five previous appearances.
He hit 17 of 18 greens Thursday and had just 24 putts, tying for best in the field in both categories. He also led the field in strokes gained-putting with 6.243 strokes gained; by comparison, Greg Chalmers led the TOUR in 2013 with an average of .854 strokes gained per round.
In spite of his good start, Henry will have to continue to make birdies this week. The winning score has been at least 20 under par in four of the five years this event has been a 72-hole tournament held exclusively at TPC Summerlin; the winning score was 19 under the other year. The champion's average 72-hole score since 2008 has been 262.4, an average of 65.6 per round. Ryan Moore (2012) is the only first-round leader to win since this event became a 72-hole tournament in 2004.
"This is the kind of week you have to shoot some low scores," Henry said. "Obviously a long way to go, but it's nice to kind of get one early in the tournament and see if you can kind of build on it."
Seventy players shot in the 60s on Thursday, but some of the favorites failed to break par in the first round. Graham DeLaet shot 72 (T-98), while his Presidents Cup teammate Brendon de Jonge shot 74 (T-122); de Jonge was runner-up in this event last year. Nick Watney, who'd finished in the top-10 here for three consecutive years, shot 73 (T-112). Jimmy Walker, winner of last week's Frys.com Open, shot 71 (T-81).