For Chesson Hadley, the round was a snap.
Hadley, known for the finger snap he makes a big moments, had plenty of those while shooting a bogey-free, eight-under-par 64 to take a one-stroke lead over Henrik Norlander of Sweden and Brandon Wu of Danville and Stanford after the first round of the Sanderson Farms Championship at the Country Club of Jackson in Jackson, Miss.
“My approach game was really solid, it gave me a lot of birdie chances and I made a lot of them,” said Hadley, who has won six times as a pro, but only once on the PGA Tour. “When I’m hitting the greens like that, it’s good for me because I think I’m a pretty good putter and I showed that today.
“I was struggling a bit with my game, so I made a swing change back in February, going to a cut shape, and I’ve been hitting the ball better even though the results haven’t really shown it, but then it was really good today from start to finish. The game feels good and I hope to just keep the pedal down for the next three days.
“We had a little rain there toward the end, so the course should be a little soft in the morning, and that’s a good thing.
Hadley, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2014 Puerto Rico Open, collected four birdies on each nine and twice made three in a row, on Nos. 3 to 5 and Nos. 12 to 14 in his flawless round.
Norlander, who has won three times as a professional but not yet on the PGA Tour, holed his third shot from 98 yards out of the rough for an eagle on the 14th hole in his bogey-free 65, while Wu birdied six of his first 12 holes and sank an 18-foot birdie putt on the last hole in another bogey-free 65 as he also seeks in first PGA Tour victory.
“It’s easy to say, but the last two years I haven’t played great golf, and I haven’t really been in the right head space,” said Norlander, who has two victories on what is now the Korn Ferry Tour. “You put a lot of pressure on yourself. My attitude was good today. I felt very calm. I didn’t get too up, even though I was playing well. The only shot that matters is the next one. It’s boring, but if you can do that, it really makes it easier.
“I got off to a good start today. I’ve been telling people and I told them in the previous interview, I’ve struggled with my ball-striking, and that’s usually the best part of my game. When I have to rely on my putting, it’s not going to be very good, and I think the scores have showed that in the last two years.
“I haven’t really been able to figure out what’s really been wrong, but the last few weeks, I went back to Sweden, saw my old coach, and my current coach also has helped a ton. All my coaches have helped. But I think we sort of finally found the main issue. I’ve got to turn better on the way back.”
Akshay Bhatia of Northridge collected seven birdies in his 66 and is in a huge tie for fourth with Matt NeSmith, who played bogey-free; Christiian Bezuidenhout of South Africa, who holed out from 38 yards for an eagle at No. 15 in another bogey-free round; Russell Knox of Scotland, who also made seven birdies; Luke List, who had eight birdies; Peter Malnati, the 2015 Sanderson Farms winner who sank a 12-foot eagle putt at No. 11, and Carl Yuan of China, who played another bogey-free round.
Cameron Champ of Sacramento, who won the 2018 Sanderson Farms, carded a bogey-free 67 and is in a tie for 11th that includes Ludvig Aberg of Sweden, the only players in the field who was part of the Ryder Cup last week, while 2017 winner Ryan Armour is tied for 43rd at 69, and defending champion Mackenzie Hughes of Canada shot 70 and is tied for 65th.
For complete results and second-round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard