Keegan Bradley, Matt Kuchar and J.B. Holmes grabbed the clubhouse lead early Thursday during the first round of the Shell Houston Open.
But more red numbers were to be had later in the day at the Golf Club of Houston, including a pair of 7-under 65s, from Bill Haas and Charley Hoffman, who hold a share of the first-round lead.
Bradley, Kuchar, Holmes, Jim Renner and Erik Compton are tied for third, one shot back, while Phil Mickelson also had a nice round with a bogey-free, 4-under 68.
Here are 5 Things you need to know from Thursday’s opening round in Humble, Texas:
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1. HAAS, HOFFMAN HOLD LEAD: Bill Haas missed the cut in his first four starts at the Shell Houston Open before tying for 10th last year. Charley Hoffman was T-20 a year ago in this event.
Now, Haas and Hoffman are tied for the lead after one round at the Golf Club of Houston.
Haas was 1 under with two birdies and a bogey when he made the turn after starting on the back nine. He then birdied the par-4 first hole, eagled the par-5 fourth from 28 feet and added three straight birdies at Nos. 6-8.
Hoffman didn’t close as well as Haas, but he started each nine strong. He birdied three of his first five holes on the back nine (his front nine) before rattling off birdies at Nos. 1, 3 and 4 after making the turn. Like several players Thursday, Hoffman didn’t record a bogey.
Haas tied for the Tour lead with nine top 10s last season. This season, he has just two in 10 starts, although he’s yet to miss a cut. Hoffman has three top 10s in 11 starts this season.
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2. KEEGAN AND KUCHAR: Matt Kuchar and Keegan Bradley are two of the biggest names in the field this week in Humble, Texas, and they didn’t disappoint in Thursday’s opening round. Each carded a 6-under 66 to grab a share of second place.
Both were bogey-free, as well, with Kuchar hitting all 18 greens in regulation and bouncing back after shooting 39 on the back nine last Sunday at the Valero Texas Open. He went from a share of the lead to finishing fourth in San Antonio.
“The great thing out here is you start all over the next week regardless whether you win or miss the cut,” Kuchar said. “I think you kind of need a bit of a short memory out here because every week you just start over fresh.”
As for Bradley, who was runner-up two weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he was pleased with his opening-round performance. But he was even happier to have outplayed playing competitor Phil Mickelson.
“I love playing with Phil. I love beating Phil, too,” Bradley quipped. “He brings out the best in me.”
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3. PHIL FEELING FINE: Phil Mickelson and his playing competitors, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, combined to go bogey-free and shoot 14 under Thursday.
“It was the first time I remember that happening, certainly in my career,” said Mickelson, who shot 4-under 68 during the morning portion of the first round.
More importantly, though, is that Mickelson was able to play. He withdrew during the third round of last week’s Valero Texas Open after pulling an oblique muscle and wasn’t sure how long the injury would sideline him.
Aside from the occasional stretching Thursday, Mickelson said he felt “a lot better.”
“I travel with a light therapy machine, and I got on it right away, and I think that made a world of difference as far as expediting the healing process to where it doesn’t hurt anymore,” Mickelson said. “It just feels sore like I was working out, as opposed to kind of a painful experience.”
Mickelson’s Masters status is less of a concern now after a pain-free – and impressive – 18 holes Thursday at the Golf Club of Houston, and even more so after Mickelson made a short trip to Augusta National earlier this week. He spent Tuesday and Wednesday prepping for the season’s first major, including playing nine holes the second day.
“I was able to spend more time with short irons, chipping, putting as opposed to driving the ball, but even that was pretty good today,” Mickelson said. “I hit the ball well off the tee and didn’t miss very many fairways.”
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4. EYES ON AUGUSTA: While several players near the top of the leaderboard are already in next week’s Masters field (i.e. Bill Haas, Keegan Bradley and Matt Kuchar), J.B. Holmes needs a win to get into Augusta National.
He’s off to a good start, too, after a first-round, 6-under 66 that included seven birdies and a bogey. Holmes, who tied for 10th two weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, has made seven of eight starts this season.
“I feel like (my game) it’s close, and I’m just kind of waiting for it to click,” Holmes said. “It worked out today and hopefully I can put three more rounds together.”
Should Holmes earn a victory this week, it would earn him his second Masters invite – he tied for 25th in his first Masters start in 2008.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Dustin Johnson is solo 144th (last place) after Round 1 thanks to an 8-over 80. The round included a quadruple-bogey 8 at the par-4 sixth hole, three double bogeys, two bogeys and four birdies. . . . Friday might be as much of a moving day as Saturday – 36 players are three shots back of the lead or less: Five a shot back at 6 under, 10 at 5 under and 20 at 4 under. . . . Some big names including Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler opened with a 2-under 70, good for T-58. . . . Last week’s winner, Steven Bowditch, opened with a 1-under 71, good for T-76, as did defending champ D.A. Points and three-time 2013-14 season winner Jimmy Walker.
Information from the PGA Tour was used in this report.