Recap of the day
Morning wave: Plenty for the locals to cheer as the Maple Leaf was flown high by Nick Taylor (64), Adam Hadwin (65), David Hearn and Drew Nesbitt (both 66). However, it was a morning of fine scoring conditions and of that quartet only Taylor found himself in the clubhouse top five. He lunched in a four-way tie for second with Shane Lowry, Sungjae Im and Erik van Rooyen, their 6-under-par efforts one swing back of the pacesetter Keegan Bradley whose 63 was his lowest opening lap on Tour since he started the 2013 Byron Nelson with a 60.
Afternoon wave: Only one man could change the look at the top of the leaderboard and he was Roberto Castro who became the fifth man to card a 64 with a birdie at his final hole (the ninth).
Revised outright betting: McIlroy 9/1, Bradley 10/1, Kuchar 10/1, Lowry 12/1, Simpson 12/1
Friday weather forecast
More of the same: sunny, temperatures in the mid-60s, humidity in the 40s and a breeze of around 5 mph.
Leaders after at 18 holes
Keegan Bradley (63) – Flushed it tee-to-green, landing 12-of-14 fairways and then missing just the one green in regulation (he saved par when that happened).
Shane Lowry (64) – Landed 13-of-18 greens in regulation and needed just 1.462 putts when that happened. The fifth time he has been T2 or better after 18 holes on the PGA Tour.
Sungjae Im (64) – A flawless lap of the course in which he found 15-of-18 greens, was 100% for Scrambling and gained over four strokes over the field Tee to Green.
Nick Taylor (64) – Started on No. 10 and was level-par through six holes, then he ticked six of the next seven holes.
Erik van Rooyen (64) – A neat card that featured four birdies and one bogey on each nine. Gained over four and a half strokes Tee to Green.
Roberto Castro (64) – A bogey-free circuit that featured three sets of back-to-back birdies and saw him land his ball on all 18 greens in regulation.
Fate of the favorites
Dustin Johnson (71) – Started early from the tenth tee and must have had a headache at the turn having crashed to five early bogeys. However, he offset those with an equal number of birdies by the time he reached the seventh, only to then drop a final shot at No. 8.
Rory McIlroy (67) – He’s currently making good starts or terrible ones and this week easily slots into the former. When he signed his card he had gained more than two strokes over the field both Off the Tee and Tee to Green.
Brooks Koepka (70) – Just the 8-of-14 fairways, then gouged his way to 16-of-18 greens in regulation, but was losing over three strokes on the greens to the field.
Justin Thomas (70) – Another to struggle on the putting surfaces, needing 2.000 putts per Green in Regulation (and he found only 13 of them). He lost over two and a half shots to the field on the greens.
Keegan Bradley (63) – “You get a lot of mid-irons here. When you're dialed in you should make a ton of birdies. I did that today. I really, really like this course. Sometimes you can get a little anxious when you're playing really well, but I felt very calm the whole day.”
Rory McIlroy (67) – “There is so much slope that it's hard to find four hole locations on some greens. They are challenging. Your visuals have to be a lot different, trying to visualize the ball going in at like 3 or 9 o’clock, try to sort of visualize that.”
Shane Lowry (64 – but talking about the pro-am) – “I thought we were going to be finished before it rained but got it wrong so there was a couple sitting in the crowd and they had an umbrella each. I gave the lady $100 for hers. It actually wasn't even a great one. It started to leak after a while.”
Nick Taylor (64) – “Hamilton suits my game more than Glen Abbey. It's more plot along here. You got to hit fairways. It's not really a bomb-and-gouge type golf course because the rough is so high.”
Adam Hadwin (65) – “It’s soft. The ball’s not running through fairways on some of the doglegs as much as it can and we were flying at the pins early on in the round. When the sun comes out it will kind of dry everything out for the rest of the week. I think by Sunday you're going to see a real championship golf course.”
Road to victory at Hamilton G&CC
2012 Scott Piercy – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 3rd
2006 Jim Furyk – R1: 1st, R2: 5th, R3: 6th
2003 Bob Tway – R1: 22nd, R2: 26th, R3: 7th
Notes: Piercy and Furyk both got off to hot starts, shooting 62 and 63 respectively. Tway posted a pair of 70s before motoring through the field at the weekend.
Fate of the first round leaders at Hamilton G&CC – where did they finish?
2012 Scott Piercy 1st
2003 Hidemichi Tanaka 4th
Notes: A small sample size, but a decent record for very early front runners.
Focus on – The Wentworth Connection
It was a good morning for golfers who began their career on the European Tour. Lowry and Van Rooyen posted those 64s, Danny Willett carded 66, Alex Noren joined McIlroy on 67, and even Luke Donald’s 69 maintained his recent upswing in form. What do they all have in common? Maybe the words of Greg Owen (in 2012) are worth recalling. He was asked: “This is a Harry Colt course, rare in North America, but common in the U.K. Does it feel familiar?” And he answered: “It’s very English looking. It’s parkland with a lot of big trees.” Parkland? England? Harry Colt? Ring any bells? How about the West Course at Wentworth, home of the BMW PGA Championship? Admittedly that track has been somewhat ripped up by various redesigns, but it is a Colt original and consider those names above. Noren, McIlroy and Donald have won on the West Course, Willett is a two-time top-five finisher, Lowry a four-time top six performer and Van Rooyen was T20th on debut last May.
Focus on – Keegan Bradley
As evidenced by the quote above the 32-year-old is very enthused about the challenge this week, but he’ll need to add a solid Friday effort to guarantee himself a shot at weekend glory – and in recent times that has been far from a certainty. In one sense, of course, being so high up the leaderboard makes staying there a little trickier. But it remains the case that in his last 12 strokeplay starts he has traveled backward in round two ten times. In that period (not including this week) he has averaged 68.64 in the first round and 72.00 in the second. And it gets worse when he’s had a round one lead:
2011 Tour Championship: R1 64 – R2 71 (+7)
2011 HSBC Champions: R1 65 – R2 70 (+5)
2013 Byron Nelson: R1 60 – R2 69 (+9)
2016 Valspar Champs: R1 67 – R2 79 (+12)
2017 CIMB Classic: R1 64 – R2 72 (+8)
2019 Players Champs: R1 65 – R2 73 (+8)