Chinese Taipei’s Kevin Yu stormed to a bogey-free 8-under 64 to grab a one-shot first round lead over World No. 6 Patrick Cantlay at the Farmers Insurance Open on Wednesday, just three days after his close brush with a maiden PGA TOUR victory.
The 25-year-old Yu, who was formerly the top-ranked world amateur, rolled in eight birdies at the North Course at Torrey Pines, San Diego to maintain his fine run of form following a tied third finish at The American Express at La Quinta last weekend.
Japanese rookie Ryo Hisatsune also kept up his strong start to life in the U.S. with an impressive 65, also at the North Course, to share second place with former FedExCup champion Cantlay while countryman Hideki Matsuyama ensured a strong Asian presence on the leaderboard with a 66 (North Course) for tied fourth position. S.H. Kim was the best performing Korean with a 69 at the more demanding South Course.
Starting from the 10th, Yu burst out with a 31 with five birdies and compiled three more birdies coming home as he missed only one green in regulation to seize his career first 18-hole lead/co-lead in what is his second season on the PGA TOUR.
“Very good. Fell short last week, bogeyed the last hole on Sunday. But yeah, I’ve been playing very good and like just keep building momentum,” said Yu, who graduated from the Korn Ferry Tour two years ago after a stellar amateur career at Arizona State University.
“I was just talking to my caddie like we have to hit a lot of fairways. I’ve been hitting it very good, so I don’t have to try to like hit my maximum distance. Just hit a lot of fairways. That was the plan. Greens are a little bumpy, but I’m just trying to hit like the best stroke I can out there, which I did today. I feel really good, looking forward to tomorrow.”
He knows he needs to keep his foot on the pedal in his chase for a career breakthrough where only two Chinese Taipei players – T.C. Chen/1987 LA Open and C.T. Pan/2019 RBC Heritage – have won previously on the PGA TOUR.
“I feel like all the courses we play out here are definitely a little tougher than Korn Ferry Tour. You have to drive the ball well. You have to be very stable all year with all parts of the game,” he said.
“You have to be mentally prepared like when you play on the PGA TOUR. I think Korn Ferry Tour give me a chance to prepare for PGA TOUR. Then, It’s very competitive, so you have to play very well. That’s a quick, great way for you to get ready for the PGA TOUR,” added Yu, who closed with a final round 63 last Sunday to finish two shots behind amateur winner Nick Dunlap.
The 21-year-old Hisatsune, who earned his PGA TOUR card through the DP World Tour Top 10 last season, has continued to shine in his rookie season where he finished T30 and T11 in his first two starts at the Sony Open in Hawaii and The American Express. The 2023 French Open champion carded eight birdies against a lone bogey to trail Yu by one.
“I feel so comfortable to play in the States,” said Hisatsune, who was named the DP World Tour Rookie of the Year in 2023. “My strong point is find the fairway and putting. Every place playing on different tours, it’s like a lot of learning experience. Last year played DP (World Tour), a lot of different countries, a lot of learning for me. PGA TOUR is top level, it is the greatest tour. Like very important I think be aggressive.”
First-Round Notes – Wednesday, January 24, 2024
Weather: Mostly cloudy. High of 61. Wind SW 6-12 mph.
Pos. Player Total
1 Kevin Yu 64 (-8) NC
T2 Patrick Cantlay 65 (-7) NC
T2 Ryo Hisatsune 65 (-7) NC
T4 Hideki Matsuyama 66 (-6) NC
T4 Shane Lowry 66 (-6) NC
T4 Thomas Detry 66 (-6) NC
T4 Aaron Rai 66 (-6) NC
T4 Alejandro Tosti 66 (-6) NC