When the wind is whipping and the rough is long, TPC Summerlin is a tough golf course to tame. But when the conditions are benign and the PGA Tour pros can just let ‘er rip, the course becomes something of a pussycat.
That was the case for Thursday’s opening round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open as low was the way to go at the 7,255-yard, par 71 layout in the northwest part of Las Vegas, some 30 minutes from the Strip. The leaderboard was a sea of red throughout the day as the players, some well known, some less-than-household names, tore it up.
Canadian Nick Taylor shot a 8-under 63 in the morning to take the lead heading into Friday’s second round while Brian Harman had the afternoon’s best round with a 7-under 63 and is one shot back.
“I hit a lot of fairways was able to attack and I took advantage of the par-5s,” Taylor said of his bogey-free round that included an eagle at the par-5 15th. “It was just a really solid day overall.”
Harman said of playing in the afternoon: “The greens get firm and they get really tricky, so that’s the hardest part. You get the advantage of the ball going much further.
“Tomorrow morning will be a challenge. The ball won’t go quite as far, so that will be an adjustment. We’ll get it figured out and do the best we can.”
Maverick McNealy, who teed off in the afternoon, had a brief share of the lead after birdieing the par-5 16th. But he gave it back the very next hole with a bogey to drop back to 7-under, then three-putted the par-4 18th to drop to 6-under and finished with a 66.
The field is loaded with notables and of those big-name players, a slimmed down Phil Mickelson had the best day Thursday as a big gallery followed him while he posted a 6-under 65.
“I have a bunch more energy,” said Mickelson, who has dropped a considerable amount of weight in recent months but has not revealed the actual number of pounds lost. “Actually, eating less has given me more energy. I find the more I eat, the more lethargic I get. But it’s helped create a little better focus to finish the rounds off. But more than that, it just allows me to be my best and practice a little bit harder.”
And it was a good day for Koepka — Chase, not Brooks. Chase, the younger of the Koepkas at age 25, shot a 5-under 66 while older brother Brooks has a wild ride, carding four bogeys along with five birdies for a 1-under 70.
This tournament is also a reunion of sorts for UNLV golf alumni. Adam Scott, who played for the Rebels during 1999-2000, had a 5-under 66 for the best showing of the five former Rebels playing this week. He said an equipment adjustment has helped as he changed drivers.
“It’s the same driver but I went from a 9.5 (degree loft) to 11.5,” Scott said. “The game has moved so far from when I started. I turned professional (in 2000) with a 6.5 degree driver and now I’m using 11.5. I’m looking to keep the ball in the air, to be perfectly honest with you. It’s about spin and launch.
As technology progresses, I have to add loft. It’s amazing I’m using 11.5. It’s nearly like a 2-wood.”