Alex Noren fired a five-under-par 65 on Thursday to grab a share of the first-round lead at the Houston Open, where the Swede is in search of a first PGA Tour title.
Noren opened and closed his day at Memorial Park Golf Course with birdies at the 10th and ninth holes, firing seven birdies all told with two bogeys.
He shared the clubhouse lead with Americans Aaron Wise and Tony Finau, while American Tyson Alexander was five-under and in the rough left of the fairway at 18 when darkness halted play.
Noren, who has 11 international victories but has yet to win on the US tour, might not have expected to put himself in contention on Thursday, but found his game coming around during the round.
“A little bit nervous coming into today,” he said. “Didn’t feel great in practice but found something and got the irons a lot better. So, yeah, good.”
In fact, Noren got off to a quick start with a birdie at the 10th, where he landed his approach within six feet.
His birdies included three in a row from the 2nd through the 4th, and he closed out the day with a birdie at the par-three 9th, where he drained an eight-foot putt.
Wise seized a share of the lead with a bogey-free 65, but said he had plenty of things to work on as he vies for a second PGA Tour title to go with his 2017 Byron Nelson win.
“I’ve just been in a weird place with my game where I’m obviously playing well enough to shoot good scores, but there are just a couple shots a round that are frustrating me,” Wise said. “Maybe it’s also just because it’s late in the season and I played too much golf, and that’s just kind of how golf gets.”
Wise strung together four straight birdies from the 3rd through the 6th holes as he climbed the leaderboard.
“I had a couple great saves to shoot bogey-free,” Wise said. Sometimes you shoot bogey-free and you hit 18 greens, and it was just an easy round. Today, it was bogey-free on the card, but it didn’t feel stress-free.”
Finau’s six birdies included a 35-foot bomb at the 9th to join Noren and Wise atop the leaderboard.
“It’s kind of just icing on the cake on a day that’s hard fought and well played,” said Finau, who missed the cut last week.
Six players were in the clubhouse on 66: Canadians Mackenzie Hughes and Taylor Pendrith and Americans David Lipsky, Wyndham Clark, Max McGreevy and Keith Mitchell.
England’s Justin Rose headed a group on 67.
South Africa’s MJ Daffue shot a 68 that included five birdies and three bogies.
Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, who could regain the world No 1 ranking he surrendered to Rory McIlroy last month with a victory, was tied for 53rd after opening with an even-par 70.
© Agence France-Presse