Blair, Murray (64s) Share Lead in La Quinta

Zac Blair shot 8-under-par 64 at La Quinta Country Club and Grayson Murray matched that score on the host Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta, so they are tied for the lead after the first round of The American Express.

Murray had sole possession of the lead until he made his only bogey while closing on the ninth hole in the 61st edition of the tournament that was most famously known as the Bob Hope Desert Classic.

The 29-year-old Blair (pictured), who has two pro victories including the 2016 Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae in Hayward on the Korn Ferry Tour, birdied five of his last eight holes while finishing a bogey-free round at La Quinta.

“It was perfect today, course was in really good shape,” said Blair, who tied for 63 rd last week at the Sony Open in Hawaii. “Drove it really well, made some good putts. But it’s a little easier out here this week right now than it was in Hawaii last week, so it’s nice.”

Murray, 26, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2017 Barbasol Championship, collected six birdies on the back nine of the Stadium Course, including the last four in a row, and added three more on the front before his only stumble at the finish.

“I’ve been here since Dec. 30 working on the game and I feel like I probably am the most prepared of the field for all three courses,” said Murray, who missed the cut in three straight events before withdrawing after a first-round 79 at the Houston Open in his last start.

“Coming off of a long off-season, you never expect to come out the gates like I did firing, but I’m comfortable around all three of these courses. … I love it out here in the desert.”

Rickie Fowler, who grew up about two hours away in Murrieta, birdied the last five holes of the front nine and added one more birdie on the last hole to shoot 65 at La Quinta, and is tied for third with Scottie Scheffler, who eagled the sixth hole while playing bogey-free on the same course, and Hank Lebioda, who birdied the first four holes on the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West.

Roger Sloan of Canada made four straight birdies on the front nine while shooting 66 on the Nicklaus Course and is tied for sixth with Tyler Duncan, Adam Schenk, Russell Knox of Scotland and Cameron Davis of Australia, who also played the Nicklaus Course; and Tom Hoge, Andrew Landry and Chase Seiffert, who all played the Stadium Course.

Bill Haas, who won the tournament in 2010 and 2015, is tied for is tied for 37th after a 68, defending champion Adam Long is tied for 49th following a 69 and tournament host Phil Mickelson, the 2002 and 2004 winner, shot 70 and is tied for 74th—all of them playing at La Quinta.

Said Mickelson: “I didn’t play great today but still had a decent score. I feel like I’m ready to go on a tear, like I’m excited to play.”

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