Korea’s K.H. Lee hit all 18 greens in regulation en route to a 5-under 66 to share sixth place after the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Thursday.
The former two-time Korean Open champion was rock solid at TPC Scottsdale as he sank six birdies against a lone bogey to end the day three shots behind co-leaders Matthew NeSmith and Mark Hubbard in the PGA TOUR event.
Despite a double-bogey, bogey start, former FedExCup winner, Rory McIlroy posted a 1-under 70 in his Waste Management Phoenix Open debut. Defending champion Webb Simpson carded a 73 to sit in T108.
Playing in his third season on the PGA TOUR, Lee is chasing a maiden victory and was delighted with his day’s effort. “Everything went really well. Hit good shots and decent putts which allowed me to play at ease,” said Lee, who is currently ranked 137th on the FedExCup points list.
In 69 career starts to date, Lee has registered three top-10s, with his last being at the 2019 RSM Classic.
He is hoping to capitalise on his strong start to join the growing list of Korean winners on TOUR, and the return of limited fans for the first time since November has reinvigorated him.
His longest birdie of the day was from 13 feet on Hole No. 7, signalling his consistent iron play where he did not miss any green in regulation play.
“It’s been a quite long time playing without fans, but we have fans with us here. Today, they made happy noises which encouraged and motivated us. It helped me a lot to play my game well. I hope we can keep this going,” said Lee.
Amongst Asia’s leading performers included Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira, who opened with a 68 while Korea’s Byeong Hun An, who has two top-10s in Phoenix, shot a 69. China’s Xinjun Zhang posted a 70 while recent The American Express winner Si Woo Kim came in with a 71.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, a two-time winner of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, opened with a 71, which was matched by his Presidents Cup International teammate C.T. Pan of Chinese Taipei. Korea’s Sungjae Im shot a 72 to currently lie one stroke outside the projected halfway cut mark.
Matthew NeSmith 63 (-8)
Mark Hubbard 63 (-8)
Nate Lashley 64 (-7)
Sam Burns 64 (-7)