DETROIT – Nate Lashley used a scorching finish to cap a career-best round of 9-under-par 63 and take a one-stroke lead on Thursday through one round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit.
Lashley sits just in front of Ryan Armour and Nick Watney, who each shot 8 under, with a group of seven players jammed into fourth place at 7 under. Thirteen others are another stroke back in the packed leaderboard in the inaugural event at Detroit Golf Club.
Lashley, 36, is ranked 353rd in the world and seeking his first career PGA Tour victory in his second year playing on the Tour. He racked up nine birdies, including eight in his final 13 holes and five in his final six, and he capped the bogey-free round with three straight at Nos. 16-18. He didn’t miss a putt inside 10 feet.
“Had a lot of uphill putts with not a lot of break, so was able to knock those in,” Lashley said after his round. “There are some putts out there … So yeah, I putted really well today, the game feels good, and hopefully I can continue this through the week.”
Lashley finished tied for 28th at the U.S. Open earlier this month after missing the cut in four of his previous seven events. Before that span, he had four top-20 finishes in six events dating back to October.
Armour opened his round on the back nine and birdied five of his first seven holes. He added three more birdies on the front nine to cap a bogey-free round.
Watney also started on the back nine and had a bogey-free day, but he did almost all of his good work late. Just 1 under through seven holes, he birdied three in a row from No. 17 to No. 1, then added four more birdies in a six-hole span between Nos. 4 and 9.
Chez Reavie, who won the Travelers Championship last week, an Charles Howell III are among the group of seven at 7 under at the unfamiliar course, the site of Michigan’s first PGA Tour event since 2009.
“Most of us have only played the golf course a couple times,” Howell said after his round. “We didn’t know the setup, how it would be. I still think guys are gonna take a bit to learn the golf course, and once they do, you’re going to see lower scores.”
Kevin Kisner highlights the slew of players at 6 under. The top-ranked player within five strokes of the lead is Rocket Mortgage ambassador Rickie Fowler (ranked 14th), who is tied for 33rd at 4 under.
World No. 2 Dustin Johnson, the top-ranked player in the field, is tied for 101st after shooting 71.
Gary Woodland is tied for 131st at 1 over in his first start since winning the U.S. Open two weeks ago.
Two spots are available for The Open Championship for players who finish in the top eight and are not already qualified to play at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland next month.
–Field Level Media