Seung-Yul Noh of South Korea broke his driver and then almost broke a tournament record.
The 31-year-old Noh, who has won four times as a pro, carded a brilliant 11-under-par 60 to take a three-stroke lead over Adam Scott of Australia and Zecheng Dou of China after one round of the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas.
Noh tied the tournament record of 60 set by Keegan Bradley in 2013.
“You know, just everything was going amazing,” said Noh, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2014 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, when it still was an individual event “Then, off the tee, I missed two drivers because of the crack of the driver head. Except for two shots off the tee through the green, everything was going perfectly today.
“Despite the driver breaking, I’m really happy for my career-low on the PGA Tour. Missed a 59 by one shot, but I’m really happy with that. However, it’s only the first day and I have to keep playing this to for a chance to win.”
Noh birdied four of the first six holes, before sinking an eight-foot eagle putt on the ninth hole, and then added four of his six birdies on the back nine in the final five holes during his 60, making 181 feet of putts during the round.
That came despite the broken driver.
“I’m trying to hit a draw (on the 12th hole) and it was a pretty solid hit but it went 70 yards right,” Noh said of his first notice of the broken driver. “I was like: ‘“Where did this come from?’”
Noh was not allowed to replace the driver immediately because Chief Referee John Mutch ruled that the damage was not sufficient.
However, after Noh hit another wild drive on the 13th hole and his provisional was even worse, Mutch took another look at the driver head and saw that it was falling apart, so he allowed Noh to use a different driver head to finish off his victory.
“There was definitely separation in the metal on the face, and there was clear concavity in the face,” Mutch said. “Concavity renders a club face non-conforming. So the club at that point was unfit for play.”
With the new driver head, Noh continued to play solidly the rest of the way.
Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, collected five birdies on the front nine and four coming home in his 63 to tie for second with Dou, who has won nine times as a professional and birdied five of the last seven holes.
Second-ranked Scottie Scheffler holed out for an eagle from 75 yards on the sixth hole and added a 14-foot eagle putt at No. 18 to go with six birdies in a 64 and is in a tie for fourth with Jason Day of Australia, who birdied seven of the last 11 holes in a bogey-free round; Ryan Palmer, who birdied five of the last seven holes; Luke List, who sank a 28-foot eagle putt at No. 14 and added six birdies; Richy Werenski, who made a 10-foot eagle putt on the ninth hole in a bogey-free round, and Scott Piercy, who had five of his eight birdies on the back nine.
Mackenzie Hughes of Canada chipped in from 29 yards at No. 5 in a bogey-free 65 and is in a big tie for 10th with Doug Ghim, who sank a 14-foot eagle putt on the fifth hole and added three late birdies; David Micheluzzi of Australia, who holed our for an eagle from 135 yards on No. 3 to go with six birdies; Sam Stevens, who holed out for eagles from 31 feet on the fifth hole and 100 yards at No. 10 to go with five birdies; Doc Redman, who played bogey-free with four birdies on his last five holes; Sean O’Hair, who had three straight birdies coming home in another bogey-free round, and Si Woo Kim of South Korea, who had four birdies on the last five holes of the front nine.
Two-time defending champion K.H. Lee of South Korea could manage only a 70 with and eagle and a birdie, and is tied for 89th.
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