Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama tied his low score of the season with a brilliant 7-under 64 for tied second place behind leader Lee Hodges of the U.S. after the first round of the US$7.8 million 3M Open on Thursday.
The 31-year-old, who joint holds the most wins by an Asian player on the PGA TOUR with eight titles, took advantage of some wonderful ball striking at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota by firing seven birdies for a bogey-free card.
Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan carded a 68 as he chases a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs next month with two Regular Season events remaining while compatriot Kevin Yu and Korea’s Sungjae Im returned matching 70s.
Matsuyama, the 2021 Masters champion, is looking to hit top form with the season fast approaching its climax to extend his streak of qualifying for the TOUR Championship, the Playoffs Finale, in each of the last 10 seasons, which is the longest active streak on TOUR.
Presently ranked 54th in the FedExCup points list, he enjoyed a good day in the office by ranking first in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, missing only one green in regulation.
“Overall it was a really good ball-striking round, especially my iron play. It got really hot out there on the back nine. I'll relax this afternoon and hopefully get ready to play well again tomorrow,” said Matsuyama, who has enjoyed six top-25s in his last 10 PGA TOUR starts since finishing 5th in THE PLAYERS Championship in March.
While his seven birdies were all from inside of 15 feet, he could have challenged Hodges’ lead if the putter was as hot as day which hit a high of 35C. Matsuyama lost strokes (-0.869) to the field in the Strokes Gained: Putting, ranking 69th after the first round.
Hodges finished one stroke shy of his lowest round on TOUR (62/R1/2022 American Express) as he grabbed his second career first round lead/co-lead. He entered the week at No. 74 in the FedExCup standings, 15 points behind No. 70 (K.H. Lee). The Top 70 after next week’s Wyndham Championship advance to the Playoffs.
“I thought me and my caddie did a really good job of picking targets and picking the clubs that we wanted. Really committed to every shot out there, hit a lot of really good ones,” said the 28-year-old, who is seeking a first PGA TOUR win.
“I've been getting off to some poor starts, which I wish I knew why, I'd fix it if I knew. To see that wedge shot go to an inch on the first hole and then make that 40-footer on the second hole, I was like might as well make a lot of birdies if we're gonna make a couple.”
Defending champion Tony Finau, who at No. 10 is the highest ranked player in the FedExCup standings in the field this week, was 6-under through six holes before a 1-over inward nine led to a 5-under 66 for T9, two off the lead. Justin Thomas carded a 69 where he is looking a good finish to secure his Playoff place after entering the week at No. 75 in the FedExCup standings.