Playing on a course softened by about 2 inches of rain the previous day, Denny McCarthy shot an 8-under-par 63 to take the early lead at the AT&T Byron Nelson in Thursday’s opening round.
Seeking his first PGA Tour win, McCarthy made six birdies on the back nine, capped off with a birdie on the par-3 17th when he hit his tee shot to within 16 feet of the hole. It was his 10th birdie of the day after he recovered from a double bogey on the fourth hole. The 63 was McCarthy’s lowest round in 41 Tour individual starts.
The 26-year-old, who played golf at the University of Virginia, has finished in the top 10 three times since earning his PGA Tour card before the 2018 season. His double bogey on the fourth helped him calm down a bit, McCarthy said. He finished his round before the wind picked up in the afternoon.
“Timid swing off the tree and from there on out I told myself I was just going to play really carefree and really aggressive,” he said of the only blemish on his card.
The carefree play hasn’t come easy for McCarthy, whose best finish in 2019 is a tie for ninth at the Valspar Championship in March. He ranks second on the PGA Tour in shots gained putting but is 156th in greens in regulation at 64.6 percent.
It’s McCarthy’s second year playing Trinity Forest Golf Club, a treeless, links-style course south of downtown Dallas. Brooks Koepka, who shot an opening 65 Thursday, is playing at Trinity Forest for the first time.
“This is probably about as true of a links golf course you’re going to find in America,” said Koepka, who heads to Bethpage Black next week seeking to defend his title at the PGA Championship. “Obviously with the rain it doesn’t play like it, being so soft, but this is a great course.”
C.T. Pan, who won his first Tour event at the RBC Heritage last month, shot 66 along with Keith Mitchell, who took his first Tour win at the Honda Classic in March.
McCarthy saw his friend Max Homa win last week’s Wells Fargo Championship for Homa’s first Tour title. It made him think if Max can do it, why can’t I? The 63 gave him confidence that he knows he can shoot low rounds. McCarthy is 157th in the world rankings.
“I’ve kind of been looking for a round like this just to kind of get me going,” he said. “I know I can be out here playing with the best and today kind of showed that.”