Rookies rule Round 1 at The Honda Classic
February 23, 2017
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Cody Gribble and Wesley Bryan lead after Round 1 at HondaIn the opening round of The Honda Classic 2017, Wesley Bryan and Cody Gribble both shoot 64 to take the overnight lead in South Florida.
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Notes and observations from Thursday’s first round of The Honda Classic, where Cody Gribble and Wesley Bryan share the lead after shooting 6-under 64. For more from PGA National, check out the Daily Wrap-up.
PGA National’s Champion Course is one of the PGA TOUR’s toughest tests. Maybe the rookies just don’t realize it yet. The top of the leaderboard is littered with players in the midst of their first PGA TOUR Season. Cody Gribble and Wesley Bryan share the lead after shooting 6-under 64. Bryan finished fourth last week at the Genesis Open, his best finish of the season, thanks to a career-low 63 in the third round at Riviera Country Club. Gribble, winner of the Sanderson Farms Championship, has missed his past four cuts. He hit all 18 greens Thursday, though, becoming the first player to hit every green since the tournament moved to PGA National in 2007.
“I’ve honestly been swinging pretty poorly the past couple weeks,” said Gribble, No. 15 in the FedExCup. “It’s getting there, but we have a long way to go.”
Cody Gribble interview after Round 1 of Honda
Both players competed at PGA National when it hosted Web.com Tour Q-School. Gribble finished T8 in 2014, while Bryan finished ninth the next year.
“A place that I’m comfortable at, and a golf course I know, they are few and far between out here,” Bryan said. “I love this place, love this golf course.”
C.T. Pan, who was runner-up at this season’s Farmers Insurance Open, fired 66.
The Champion Course played easier than usual Thursday, and players took advantage. Sixty-two players broke par, 40 more than last year. Thursday’s scoring average of 70.3 was two strokes lower than last year.
“It was very soft and there was not much wind. Once you miss the fairway, it was actually OK from the rough because the greens are so soft. I've not played the golf course in easier conditions,” Martin Kaymer said after Thursday’s 65. He hit 13 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens Thursday.
Last year, the field averaged 71.8 strokes on the par-70 layout, making it the second-toughest non-major course in 2016. The course should play firmer in the final three rounds, as there’s no rain in the forecast and high temperatures are expected to be in the 80s.
“They gave you a chance today just because of the soft greens but once it firms up, … then you really don't have a chance of playing out of the rough,” said Rickie Fowler, who shot 66 on Thursday.
POULTER’S BORROWED TIME
Ian Poulter shot 66 on Thursday, which is a good thing because he said he’s on “borrowed time.” He’s referring to the medical extension he must fulfill to maintain his status on the PGA TOUR. Poulter needs to earn $220,301 or 154 FedExCup points in six starts to keep his status.
“The situation I'm in, I have to be aggressive, but I've got to be careful. I can't make many mistakes,” Poulter said. “In some respects, it kind of focuses the mind to hit shots, and … this is a golf course where you have to hit shots. So I'm not thinking about anything else apart from just playing solid golf.”
Poulter sat out four months last season because of an arthritic joint in his right foot. This is his fifth start of the season. He missed two of his first four cuts and finished T17 and T36 in the others. Thursday’s 66 is his low round of the season. He finished third in this tournament two years ago, shooting 74 in the final round after taking a three-shot lead after 54 holes.
This is the first time in six Honda Classic starts that Poulter has posted a sub-par score in round one.
Ian Poulter's fabulous approach on No. 3 results in eagle at Honda
TIGHT RACE FOR WGC SPOTS
The top 10 in the FedExCup at week’s end will qualify for next week’s World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship. Nos. 7-10 in the standings are not yet exempt for the tournament. Jon Rahm, who’s seventh in the FedExCup, is not playing this week, but the three players immediately behind him are. Mackenzie Hughes, Charles Howell III and Hudson Swafford are Nos. 8-10, respectively. They all shot 69 on Thursday. Hughes, the rookie who won the RSM Classic, and CareerBuilder Challenge champion Swafford are seeking their first WGC starts. Howell hasn’t played in a WGC since 2013.
The 197-yard, par-3 17th, the final hole of the famed three-hole stretch known as the Bear Trap, was Thursday’s most difficult hole, playing to a 3.29 stroke average. There were just 12 birdies on the hole Thursday. The Bear Trap’s other two holes weren’t as difficult. The 184-yard, par-3 15th was Thursday’s 12th-toughest hole, playing to a 3.04 stroke average. The 444-yard, par-4 16th was the 10th-toughest hole, playing to a 4.06 average.
ODDS & ENDS
Scott Stallings had a hole-in-one at the 184-yard, par-3 15th, the opening hole of the Bear Trap. It was the first ace recorded at that hole during The Honda Classic. He used an 8-iron for the shot, which earned him a 2017 Honda CR-V. … Defending champion Adam Scott shot 2-under 68 despite hitting just four fairways. … Monday qualifier Joey Garber shot 67 and is tied for 12th place. This is the fourth event for which Garber has qualified; his best finish is T13 at last year’s Barracuda Championship.
BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Tommy Morrissey doing his best Arnold Palmer pic.twitter.com/Qhvt7xkg5f— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 23, 2017
Wesley Bryan's last nine rounds on TOUR— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 23, 2017
A sand wedge from 154 yards.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 23, 2017
Why not? pic.twitter.com/9DtExwQvHo