IRVING – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) — A group of the best golfers in the world tried to tame the blustery conditions as well as the challenging course at the TPC Las Colinas in the first round of the AT&T Byron Nelson on Thursday in Irving, Texas. Two were up to the task, as James Hahn and Ricky Barnes fired dual 6-under 64s early in the day before the really strong winds kicked in and garnered a two-stroke lead in this northwest suburb of Dallas.
Scores in the afternoon averaged more than two strokes higher (70.88 to 72.96) than in the morning as the winds whipped and swirled around the course.
Hahn, who won twice on the PGA Tour (most recently at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2016), recorded six birdies without a bogey on his round. He found the fairway on 12 of his 14 opportunities and hit all but one green in regulation while playing for pars and avoiding looking at either his scorecard or the leaderboard.
“It’s playing tough out there,” Hahn said. “You know, once you start counting up your strokes in the middle of the round it’s kind of when things go haywire. I did a good job of staying in the present, just making sure that I put myself in a position where I at least made par and judged the wind. I had a great conversation with my caddy on almost every hole trying to leave ourselves the best opportunity for a birdie.”
Barnes, the 2002 U.S. Amateur champion, had an inconsistent scorecard that featured eight birdies — including four in five holes on the front nine — and two bogeys.
“I almost birdied half of them and I had two looks coming in so yeah, I’m very happy,” Barnes said. “I played solid, kept the hole in front of me even though I didn’t hit many fairways. My distance control was very good today. I think that’s what leads to birdies out here. If you get in the right sections of these greens you can get good looks.”
Matt Kuchar, Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, Jason Kokrak and Cameron Tringale are two strokes back after carding 66s. Tringale was the only member of the group playing in the afternoon wave.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, Bud Cauley, Brooks Koepka, John Huh, Sean O’Hair, Ryan Armour and Peter Malnati settled in another shot in arrears after shooting 67s.
Johnson two-putted from 90 feet on the 18th hole to stay a part of the group.
“I felt like I hit a lot of good shots and ended up in really bad spots due to the wind conditions blowing really hard and it’s gusty, which made it tough,” Johnson said. “It was tough to judge the distance, tough putting, tough all around.”
Local favorite and world No. 6 Jordan Spieth, fourth-ranked Jason Day of Australia and Scott Piercy headed a list of 12 players at 68. Eight of those golfers played in the morning wave.
“Hopefully the wind can be a little bit calmer tomorrow morning for us and we can get out and get a good one in and try and just work our way up the leaderboard,” Day said.
Defending champion and recent Masters champion Sergio Garcia struggled with his putting and stumbled to a 73 on Thursday. It was his second-highest opening round in 13 appearances at this event. He shot 75 in 2006.
Garcia did not address the media after the round, opting to head straight to the practice putting green to get in some work.
A handful of notable golfers likely played their way out of the tournament after dreadful opening rounds, including Shell Houston Open winner Freddie Jacobson of Sweden, Bryce Molder, Ryan Moore and 2011 Byron Nelson champion Keegan Bradley (all at 74), Hunter Mahan, Tony Finau, Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa and 2009 Nelson champion Rory Sabbatini of South Africa (all at 75), Russell Henley, J.B. Holmes and Australia’s Stuart Appleby (at 76), and 2015
Nelson titlist Steven Bowditch, who managed to shoot 80.
NOTES: The 2017 AT&T Byron Nelson is being played in the 35th and final year in Irving, Texas, at the TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas. In 2018, the tournament will move to Trinity Forest Golf Club (a links-style course designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore), located just 10 minutes south of downtown Dallas. … Sixteen of the past 22 winners of this tournament recorded all four rounds in the 60s. The exceptions: Keegan Bradley (2011), Jason Day of Australia (2010), Adam Scott of Australia (2008), Brett Wetterich (2006), Sergio Garcia of Spain (2004) and Jesper Parnevik of Sweden (2000). … The current course record of 60 at the TPC Las Colinas was set by Keegan Bradley in 2013. Other 60s in tournament history have been posted by Arron Oberholser (Cottonwood Valley in 2006) and Sam Snead (1957 at Glen Lake Country Club)