Friday, February 03, 2017

 Kuchar kicks off 2017 campaign with a 64
Matt Kuchar fired a faultless seven-under 64 to claim a one-shot lead over the red-hot Hideki Matsuyama on the opening day of the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
As over 100,000 fans again flocked to TPC Scottsdale for the "greatest show on turf", Kuchar stole the first round headlines with a bogey-free effort on his first 2017 appearance on the US PGA Tour  following a seven-week break.
Kuchar got off to the ideal start as he birdied the first and rolled in a putt of over 30 feet for another gain at the second, and he safely parred the next eight holes before breaking the run with a birdie at the 11th.
The Ryder Cup star, who is without a win since capturing his seventh Tour title at the RBC Heritage in April 2014, then hit the par-five 13th green in two and drained the 20-foot chance for eagle, and he followed that with a birdie on 15 before coming close to chipping in for another eagle at the driveable par-four 17th.
Kuchar missed yet another birdie chance from inside 10 feet at the last, but the tap-in par capped his best round since August as he surpassed Matsuyama and Brendan Steele for the clubhouse lead.
Matsuyama also kept a bogey off his card as he opened up the defence of his title with a classy six-birdie 65, a score later matched by Steele after the American failed to build on a remarkable first half of his round.
Steele started on the 10th and covered the back nine in just 30 shots, with four birdies and a stunning eagle-two at the tough 14th where his 194-yard approach bounded into the cup
But he offset further birdies at the first and third with bogeys at the second, fourth and fifth holes before getting back to six under par with a superb 30-foot putt for birdie at the eighth.
Former BMW PGA Championship winner Byeong Hun An was among a large group of players on five under, with Rickie Fowler and Scotland's Martin Laird one stroke further adrift.                                                                
Fan favourite Phil Mickelson cruised to the turn in 32 with three birdies, but he had to scramble hard on the inward nine and reeled off nine straight pars to close on three under, while fellow Masters champions Bubba Watson (69) and Jordan Spieth (70) also broke par.





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