World No 4 Patrick Cantlay roared out of the gate on the way to a 10-under-par 62 on Thursday and a share of the first-round lead in The American Express alongside rookie Lee Hodges.
Cantlay, the reigning FedEx Cup champion, played the first seven holes at La Quinta in seven-under par thanks to five birdies and an eagle at the par-five sixth.
The American cooled off coming home, making just three birdies the rest of the way to join Hodges atop the leaderboard.
The 26-year-old Hodges, making just his 14th appearance on the PGA Tour, had eight birdies and a brilliant eagle at the par-five fifth at La Quinta, the easiest of three courses in use – along with the Nicklaus Tournament Course and the Stadium Course – for the tournament in the California desert near Palm Springs.
After birdies at 11, 12 and 13 Cantlay was tied with Hodges, and he had a golden chance to overtake him when he spun his approach shot to within five feet at the 17th. But Cantlay couldn’t get the putt to drop, and he missed a longer birdie chance at 18.
“I got off to a roll at the start and made a bunch of putts and then I lagged on the way coming in,” said Cantlay, who was runner-up last year to South Korean Kim Si-woo.
“But I was happy with everything. I thought I did everything well and it’s a golf course I really like, it’s in perfect shape and so if you get the ball rolling on line it should go in.”
Hodges’s 62 was his best PGA Tour round by three strokes.
He teed off on 10 and made the turn three-under, and after another birdie at the second he picked up six strokes in his last six holes with four birdies and his eagle.
“I played nice today, really putted well,” Hodges said.
The leading duo were two strokes clear of South Korean Lee Kyoung-hoon and American Cameron Young.
Lee had 10 birdies and two bogeys in an impressive 64 on the Stadium Course while Young had an eagle, seven birdies and a bogey at La Quinta.
Eight players shared fifth on seven-under par.
World No 1 Jon Rahm, winner of the event in 2018, headed a group of 11 players on six-under.
“My swing didn’t feel a hundred percent but I kind of adjusted a little bit and I played some good golf,” Rahm said. “Hopefully I can tidy up a couple of putts.
“My first few holes I didn’t hit the best putts, but then starting on eight or nine I started rolling the ball better and it showed, I made a couple of clutch putts on the back nine.”
Six-time Major winner Phil Mickelson got off to a disastrous start at La Quinta, where he made a nine at the par-four eighth hole on the way to a six-over 78 that left him tied for last.
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images