Here is a recap of the first round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, played at Firestone Country Club’s South Course in Akron, Ohio:
LEADING: Thomas Pieters was flawless Thursday, firing a 5-under 65 around the tight South Course. The Belgian wasn’t flashy on this day, but he’s beating everyone. Pieters birdied No. 14 (his fifth hole), would add another at the 16th, two more at Nos. 1 and 2 and close with another at the ninth to grab the solo lead. The 25-year-old has yet to win on the PGA Tour, but then again this is just his 16th career start on the circuit. The former Illini star went back to Europe after leaving school early and turning pro, and he picked up three European Tour wins between 2015 and ’16. Pieters has focused more on the U.S. this season, as this is his 11th start on the PGA Tour this season after five total in his career prior to 2016-17. He has three top 10s on the PGA Tour this year, with his best finish being a T-2 at the Genesis Open. Pieters has long been predicted for stardom and was a breakout in a strong four-point performance as a Ryder Cup rookie last fall. A long way to go in this one, but this is a strong start for the World No. 34.
CHASING: Russell Knox was in line for the lead before a bogey at the last (No. 9) dropped him to 4 under. Still, a heady start for Knox, who is probably a bit more relaxed this week with this being a no-cut event. (The Scot entered the week having missed his last three cuts.) A gaggle of big names are tied for third at 3 under. That list includes a guy with a new caddie in Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, determined to let you know what really happened in his Open win, Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson, Kevin Kisner and Ross Fisher.
SHOT OF THE DAY: A 439-yard drive? Really?
We don’t care that this landed in the rough, nothing tops this drive from Dustin Johnson on Thursday.
QUOTABLE: “Sometimes I wish my 5-footers were 50-footers.” – Jordan Spieth, after a round in which he made putts over 30 feet on back-to-back holes
SHORT SHOTS: Johnson, by the way, birdied that hole on his way to a solid opening 70. He’s T-9 at 2 under. … Fresh off a playoff loss at the RBC Canadian Open, Charley Hoffman also shoots 70. Same for Adam Scott, who was actually in the lead at 5 under before four late bogeys. We may not see much more of Scott this season after next week, for the record. … Jhonattan Vegas, the Canadian Open winner, is T-15 at 1 under. … Rickie Fowler is T-22 at even par. … Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka are all notables in a tie for 33rd at 1 over.
UP NEXT: Golf Channel will air second-round coverage from 1-6 p.m. Eastern (but remember that tee times are moved up for Round 2 like they were Thursday). Follow all the action live on Golfweek.com and our Facebook and Twitter feeds.