Recap of the day
A 61 led in 2016 while a 62 from eventual winner Charles Howell topped the round one charts 12 months ago. Today, a 7-under 65 from pre-tournament betting favorite Webb Simpson, the highest-ranked player in the field, was sufficient to secure solo first. With players starting out from 1 and 10 on the two courses being used - Seaside and the revamped Plantation - tee-times were spread from just 09:15 to 11:15 so there was no real chance for a morning/afternoon weather bias. Simpson's 65 came on the par-72 Plantation while Cameron Tringale and Kyoung-Hoon Lee carded 6-under 64s on the par-70 Seaside. They were joined by Rhein Gibson late in the day as he fired a 6-under at the Plantation. Nine players were sat at 5-under while 90 of the 155 broke par. Michael Kim withdrew.
Leaderboard: -7 Webb Simpson (PL), -6 Cameron Tringale (SS), Kyoung-Hoon Lee (SS), Rhein Gibson (PL), -5 Scott Harrington (SS), Tyler Duncan (PL), Brian Harman (PL), Alex Cejka (PL), Rory Sabbatini (PL), Scott Brown (SS), Sebastian Munoz (PL), Nick Taylor (PL), Hank Lebioda (PL).
Notables: -4 Dylan Frittelli (PL), Brendon Todd (SS), -2 Scottie Scheffler (PL), Alex Noren (SS), Charles Howell III (SS), Davis Love III (SS), -1 Harris English (PL), Evs Matt Kuchar (PL), +2 Billy Horschel (+2), +3 Kevin Kisner (SS).
Shot of the day: Johnson Wagner's 3-wood for albatross at the Seaside Courses's par-5 15th. Fun fact: Wagner now has three of these rare birds in his PGA TOUR career, tying previous record holder Tim Petrovic.
Revised outright betting:
11/4 (from 10/1) Simpson, 22/1 Todd, Tringale, 28/1 Harman, Frittelli, 30/1 Poston, Sabbatini, 33/1 Howell III.
Friday weather forecast
It's a mixture of sunshine and cloud throughout the day and temperatures in the early/mid 70s. There's very little wind (4mph) so scoring should be low again.
Leaders after at 18 holes
Webb Simpson (-7) – Started at 10 on the Plantation but was still 1-over when failing to birdie the par-5 14th. Made it to the turn in under par after two circles and then came home in 6-under 30, ending with three straight par breakers. Hit 14 greens and took just 1.571 Putts Per Gir.
Cameron Tringale (-6) – Seven birdies against a single bogey and home in 32 at the Seaside. Ranked 2nd in SG: Tee To Green (4.423) and 5th in Approach (2.139). His lowest lap in nine starts here although twice previously he's opened with 65, going on to finish T26 and T27.
Kyoung-Hoon Lee (-6) – Matched the low round at the Seaside with a bogey-free lap. A real stripe show, with the 28-year-old Korean missing just one fairway and two greens.
Rhein Gibson (-6) – Birdied all four par 5s at the Plantation and just a lone bogey on his scorecard. The 33-year-old Aussie piped only 6 (of 14) fairways but ranked 2nd for Putts Per Gir (2nd).
Fate of the favorites
Webb Simpson – See above.
Billy Horschel (+2) – A sluggish start from Billy Ho, despite seemingly having the ideal converging trends (runner-up in this event on last visit and three top eights in his last five starts). Today, at the Plantation, he swallowed five bogeys, missing just two fairways but only finding two-thirds of the greens. Cold putter.
Matt Kuchar (Ev) – Surprisingly, Kuchar has just one top 15 (T7 2013) in seven starts at this event and has broken 67 just once. Five bogeys, including two to close his day, added to that underwhelming sequence. Hit just 12 greens and 33% scrambling hurt him.
Charles Howell III (-2) – Another of the leading players to rack up the bogeys but he outpaced his four squares with six circles to shoot 68. However, that was six more than the DC shot last year. Found just 11 greens but putter helped get him out of trouble.
Webb Simpson (-7) "I was one-over there thru five holes and, you know, playing with guys who are making birdies, it's hard to stay patient. But I was able to do that and started making some putts on the back nine."
Johnson Wagner (-3): (On his albatross at 15) "I just wanted to make sure I could give it a go because it’s an eagle pin. The wind was in and off the left. I had to hit it as hard as I could. As soon as it came off, I knew it was going to be good. It hit just short, took a nice bounce, then we saw it hit the stick and disappear. It was awesome.”
Road to victory at Sea Island
2018 Charles Howell III – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2017 Austin Cook – R1: 8th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2016 Mackenzie Hughes – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2015 Kevin Kisner – R1: 4th, R2: 2nd, R3: 1st
2014 Robert Streb – R1: 48th, R2: 10th, R3: 12th
Notes: In the nine editions of this event, seven of the eventual winners were in the top 11 after the opening lap. Only one champion has come from more than four shots back, Tommy Gainey in 2012 when he was seven off the pace. Every winner shot in the 60s on day one.
Fate of the 18-hole leaders at Sea Island – where did they finish?
2018 Charles Howell III 1st
2017 Chris Kirk 4th
2016 Mackenzie Hughes 1st
2015 Jeff Overton 6th, David Hearn 9th, Tom Hoge 9th
2014 Will MacKenzie 2nd, Brian Harman 41st, Erik Compton 48th, Michael Thompson 66th
Notes: The 18-hole leader has gone on to lift the trophy in two of the last three years - good news for Webb Simpson. Prior to that, R1 pacesetters had a poor record although Simpson shared the lead in 2011 and went on to finish runner-up.
Focus on – Course splits
As expected, the Plantation played easier, averaging over a shot under par.
Plantation 70.701 (-1.299 under the par of 72)
Seaside 69.410 (-0.590 under the par of 70)
Of the 13 players who finished the day at tied fifth or better, nine of them played at the Plantation. That included leader Webb Simpson.
Focus on – Brendon Todd
He can't win three in a row, can he? Because, y'know, the last player to do that on the PGA TOUR was Tiger Woods. But if that most unlikely of trebles was going to land, this isn't the worst place. As Todd explained in his pre-tourney press conference: "Obviously a special event for us Georgia guys. We came down here and played SECs every year when we were in college and a lot of the guys moved down here, so I think we're all excited to be back here at Sea Island. I've played pretty solid here in years past and very familiar with the golf courses, so just looking forward to a great week and obviously bringing in some good form, so we'll try to make it three in a row." Did he contemplate having the week off? "My family was planning on coming down, we already had a house rented. I'm not going to miss an event in Georgia. Just happy to be here, support the event, support the community and play a place that sets up well for me, because from here on out I'll be picking golf courses and tournaments that I think set up well for my game and tournaments that have been good to me in the past." Todd ended today in a tie for 14th after a 4-under 66 at the Seaside Course. Notably, the revised betting after day one showed only leader Webb Simpson at shorter odds. For the record, Todd was second after the first round when winning at Mayakoba last week but only T25 thru 18 holes when hoisting the silverware at the Bermuda Championship.
Focus on – Zach Johnson
ZJ is one of the many local residents this week and he started his week on the Plantation. The double major winner was gushing in his praise. "I love everything about this tournament. Everything. I love the golf courses. The new Plantation's magnificent. We're only playing it for one day, but really good for those that stay here on the Sea Island properties to be a great complement to Seaside in a lot of respects. Seaside's magnificent, as we all know. The golf courses are tremendous." Of more interest was an updated self-assessment of where his game is. "I'm very encouraged, very encouraged. Worked hard, reassessed things, and actually when things aren't well, you've got to do something. Got the meeting of the minds together and my team of guys and hashed out a really good plan and I think the dividends of that plan are starting to show. I'm not suggesting they're there yet because I don't feel they're even close, but I see the upward trajectory of that and that's encouraging but there's still more work to be done. Hopefully, it's this week. If not, I know it's going to come at some point." With T23 at the Mayakoba and T14 at the Sanderson Farms in two of his last three starts, the signs are there and today Johnson opened up with a 3-under 69 at the Plantation. Nothing amazing but he closed with a trio of birdies and, at a tournament where he's cracked the top ten the last two years, he's one to watch as the week unfolds.