WASHINGTON • Brandt Snedeker, in the top 40 only once since the PGA Tour resumed in June following a three-month Covid-19 shutdown, said the long-awaited sight of fans helped him seize the lead in Thursday’s first round of the Houston Open.
The 39-year-old American fired a five-under 65 for a two-stroke edge at Memorial Park Golf Course, a municipal layout hosting a PGA event for the first time since 1963.
“Very excited about how I played,” he said. “Drove it great. Around this golf course, you have to be in the fairway, otherwise it’s going to be a long day.
“Did a great job of that. Made some putts. Birdied every par-five out there. You need to take advantage of the scoring holes, which I did a great job of today.”
A total of 2,000 spectators are being allowed each day with masks and social-distancing precautions in place.
This is the first PGA event with spectators on a US course since June – last week’s Bermuda Championship also had a restricted gallery but it was held on the Caribbean island – and Snedeker was galvanised by their presence.
“That’s a big reason why I played well today – I love having fans out here,” he said. “I kind of feed off their energy. It’s great to hear some claps and people excited for good shots.”
Australians Jason Day and Cameron Davis, Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz and Americans Scottie Scheffler, Michael Thompson and Harold Varner shared second on 67, while nine players remained on the course when darkness halted play.
“I putted a lot better today than I had in the past,” former world No. 1 Day said. “I think it’s just a good step in the right direction.”
World No. 84 Snedeker, whose only top-40 finish since February was a share of 17th last month at Jackson, Mississippi, is seeking a 10th career PGA Tour title and first since 2018 at Greensboro, where he opened with a 59.
“Did a great job of kind of thinking my way around the golf course,” he said.
“I’m excited I got a low one in me, which is good. The lead means nothing right now. We have a lot of golf to go.”
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, in his first event since he contracted Covid-19, forcing him to miss two tournaments last month, stumbled to four bogeys in five holes on his way to an opening 72.
Four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka, trying to find form after hip and knee injuries, also shot 72.