Canadian rookie Taylor Pendrith fired a seven-under-par 65 on Friday to take a one-shot lead in the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
Pendrith, making up for lost time after a broken rib sidelined him almost four months, started the day tied for the lead with Tony Finau. With eight birdies and one bogey at Detroit Golf Club, his 15-under par total of 129 put him one in front of the American – who is coming off a victory in the 3M Open in Minnesota last week.
“I think today especially I hit my driver really well, hit a lot of fairways,” said Pendrith, who found 13 of 14 fairways. “And my wedges were good. The distances were pretty consistent and gave myself a lot of nice birdie putts.”
He jumped out of the gate with birdies at the first four holes, rolling in an 11-footer to start his round before giving himself a tap-in at the 2nd.
Pendrith drained six- and seven-foot birdie putts at the 3rd and 4th and made another short one at the 7th, picking up three more birdies coming in.
“The putter was great as well,” said Pendrith, chasing a first PGA Tour title. “But if you can get it in the fairways here you can kind of attack.”
Finau rolled in a 19-foot birdie putt at the 2nd, then didn’t find another birdie until the 10th, where he drained a 10-footer.
That and a par save at 11 jump-started his round. He birdied the 12th, 13th and 14th, then briefly grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie at 17, his bogey-free 66 giving him a 14-under total of 130.
American Lee Hodges was alone in third after a 66 for 132. Cameron Young, Russell Henley and Stewart Cink were tied for fourth on 134.
“Anytime you win, you breed confidence,” Finau said. “I was just happy to carry that confidence from last week right into this week.”
Pendrith, ranked 237th in the world, missed about 16 weeks after he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in a rib.
He’d optimistically hoped the injury would keep him off the course less than half that time, especially since he’d played well early in the year.
“To have to sit out for almost four months after that really sucked, but honestly, couldn’t really do much about it,” Pendrith said. “I just tried to stay patient and know that it’s going to heal and I’ll be back at some point.”
The three South Africans in the field – Garrick Higgo (level par), Dawie van der Walt (one over) and Dylan Frittelli (two over) – all missed the weekend cut.
© Agence France-Presse