Byeong Hun An of South Korea has never won on the PGA Tour, but you wouldn’t have guessed it on Thursday.
The 31-year-old An shot a brilliant, bogey-free, nine-under-par 63 to take a two-stroke lead over Davis Riley after the first round of the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club in North Berwick, Scotland.
The tournament is co-sponsored by the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.
“It’s one of those days, every shot you hit just has a perfect number,” said An, who closed his round with a 24-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole. “I pitched it right, how the ball reacted on the greens, everything was perfect. Some of the putts I had were very straightforward putts that I think I left in a good spot. Everything went really well.
“It’s great. I feel like I’m back home. This is the Tour where I started my professional career. It’s been great coming back and playing links golf, definitely it’s nice. I started on the Challenge Tour playing links courses and played The Open many times. I like links golf.
“It’s different than the courses we play in the US. You just have to land it in different spots. I really like it and as long as the weather is nice, and I prefer warm weather, but a links course, I feel comfortable. It can get tricky hitting shots into (the wind) but I think I did well today.”
An, who has won four times as a pro including the 2015 BMW PGA Championship, started on the back nine and collected five birdies including four in a row through No. 16, and then added four more coming home to tie The Renaissance Club course record of 61.
Riley, seeking his first individual PGA Tour victory, made five straight birdies through the seventh hole and two more in a row at the turn in his 63.
“It’s so much different than playing golf in the States,” said Riley, who won twice on the 2020 Korn Ferry and teamed with Nick Hardy to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April. “It’s just so much fun, flighting shots, maneuvering it with the wind and playing slopes, a part of the game that I really enjoy.
“As firm as it gets, you can utilize some slopes. That’s the best part about it is there’s a million different ways to hit the shot right and that’s what’s so fun about it. That part today, I enjoyed, and that was a big part of the reason I played well.
“I shot 65 in the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic two weeks ago and I’m just trying to take that and carry it over.”
Third-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland started on the back nine and birdied five of his first seven holes, holed out for an eagle at No. 3 in a 64 and is tied for third with Thomas Detry of Belgium, while K.H. Lee of South Korea carded a bogey-free 65 and is tied for fifth with Yannick Paul of Germany, who holed out from 48 feet for an eagle on the 14th hole in his 65.
Said McIlroy: “I haven’t had particularly great experiences around this golf course the last couple times I’ve played. But I feel like my game is definitely in better shape than the last couple times I have played The Scottish Open. Great start. I controlled my ball nicely.”
Eighth-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal had three birdies on the back nine en route to a 66 and is in a huge tie for seventh with Will Gordon, David Lingmerth of Sweden, Ewen Ferguson of Scotland, Oliver Bekker of South Africa, Julien Brun of France, Ross Fisher of England and Tom Kim of South Korea.
Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler totaled 68 and is in a tie for 26th that includes ninth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England and U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark, while defending champion and sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State finished at 70 and is tied for 74th.
Fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA wound up at 72 and is in a tie for 123rd that includes 10-ranked Jordan Spieth, while fifth-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway is tied for 137th at 73.
For complete results and second-round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard