After an all-too-brief off-season, the PGA Tour is once again up and running. Here’s how things look after the opening round of the Safeway Open, where the defending champ is in a familiar spot:
Leaderboard: Brendan Steele (-7), Tyler Duncan (-7), Tom Hoge (-7), Emiliano Grillo (-5), Lucas Glover (-5), Jamie Lovemark (-5), Chez Reavie (-5)
What it means: While this tournament was deluged by heavy rains a year ago, Silverado’s North Course is back to playing firm and fast this time around. With relatively calm conditions, players were able to take advantage including Steele, who won this tournament by a shot last year and is once again holding a share of the pole position after the first round of the season.
Round of the day: Steele narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Tour Championship last month, but he showed no signs of a slowdown during a 7-under 65 to take the early lead before he was caught by Duncan and Hoge. Steele hit all 18 greens in regulation, with his lone hiccup coming when he three-putted the sixth hole.
Best of the rest: Hoge didn’t know he had a PGA Tour card until Monday’s conclusion of the Web.com Tour Championship, but he quickly put his new credentials to work with a bogey-free 65. That included a torrid back nine, one in which Hoge birdied six holes in an eight-hole stretch from Nos. 11-18.
Biggest disappointment: While many big names got off to sub-par starts, Bryson DeChambeau wasn’t among that group. DeChambeau played alongside Mickelson in the opening round but he made only two birdies en route to a 1-over 73 that left him eight shots back. DeChambeau hit 13 of 18 greens but lost nearly two shots to the field with a putter in his hand.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Given his quick start and course history, Steele is certainly the player to watch heading into the second round. But don’t discount Grillo, who sits just two shots back on a course where he won as a rookie in 2015, or Phil Mickelson, who trails by only four shots after he turned two fairways hit into a 3-under 69.
Shot of the day: Steele admitted that he thought he had pulled his 200-yard approach to the par-5 fifth hole, but he was pleasantly surprised to watch the ball catch a slope near the back of the green and funnel toward the hole. It ended up just 2 feet away, leading to a kick-in eagle.
Quote of the day: “This place just makes sense to me.” – Steele