Zach Johnson and Alex Noren of Sweden were on the same page.
The 47-year-old Johnson (pictured), a two-time major champion, and Noren both shot 10-under-par 62 at La Quinta Country Club to take a one-stroke lead over Rico Hoey of Rancho Cucamonga and USC, and Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa after the first round of the 65th version of The American Express.
“La Quinta Country Club is legitimately one of the purest places we play on the PGA Tour, year-in, year-out,” said Johnson, who won the 2007 Masters and the 2015 Open Championship. “The grass is so good, it almost looks fake. If you have it going, and you have some sort of rhythm, and you’re seeing the lines on the putting green, because they’re pure, you can put a number up.
“I love this place. … I told the assistant pro today, if I broke 76 that I should get a free membership, but I don’t think that’s going to (happen). That’s unfortunate, but we’ll keep working on them.”
Johnson claimed six of his 10 birdies in a row at the end of the front nine in his 62, which Noren matched with an eagle on the 13th hole to go with 10 birdies against a double-bogey 6 at No. 17.
Said Noren, who has 11 pro victories but has yet to win on the PGA Tour: “I don’t think I’ve been 7-under after seven (holes), and then I hit it out of bounds on my eighth hole. It’s just fun to be here. I like this tournament. This course is beautiful.”
Hoey, whose only pro victory came in the 2017 Freedom International Championship, carded a bogey-free 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West in La Quinta, while Bezuidenhout also was bogey-free in his round at La Quinta CC.
Fifth-ranked Xander Schauffele eagled the 11th hole and shot a bogey-free 64 at La Quinta CC and is in a huge tie for fifth with fifth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, who also had a bogey-free 64 at La Quinta CC; Scott Stallings, who had a bogey-free 64 on the Stadium Course at PGA West; Hayden Springer, who eagled the eighth hole on the Stadium Course; Si Woo Kim of South Korea, who won this event in 2021 and birdied his last six holes at La Quinta CC; Chan Kim, who was bogey-free on the Nicklaus Course; Justin Lower, who eagle No. 11 on the Nicklaus Course; Alexander Bjork of Sweden, who eagled No. 5 at La Quinta CC, and amateur Nick Dunlap, who eagled the seventh and 11th holes on the Nicklaus Course.
Eric Cole, the 2023 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year from Palm Springs, eagled the 16th hole in a 66 on the Stadium Course and is tied for 16th, while top-ranked Scottie Scheffler is tied for 39th after a 67 at La Quinta CC, and 10th-ranked Wyndham Clark, the reigning U.S. Open champion, carded a 70 at La Quinta CC and is tied for 98th.
For complete results and second-round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard