Recap of the day
Morning wave: Two-time tournament winner J.B. Holmes flew home on a wet sail to post a superb 7-under-par 64 that left him one stroke clear of fellow first round fliers Tom Hoge, Harris English and Byeong Hun An. Holmes’s round was a dizzying affair that included a double bogey start, a front nine hole-in-one and a back nine of 30.
Afternoon wave: Wyndham Clark was sensational, torching TPC Scottsdale with an error-free 10-under-par 61 to grab the lead from Holmes, and Billy Horschel improved on the morning best, too, with a 63. Meanwhile, Bud Cauley made it a four-way tie for fourth by adding another 65. One man didn't complete his round. Seung Yul Noh (and his playing partners) will return for a 16'0" birdie putt on the 18th green first thing Friday morning.
Notables: -4 Branden Grace, Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, -3 Justin Thomas, -2 Bubba Watson, -1 Gary Woodland, Bryson DeChambeau, Viktor Hovland, E Webb Simpson, +3 Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler
Revised outright betting
Rahm 11/2, Horschel 10/1, Matsuyama 12/1, Thomas 12/1, Clark 12/1, Schauffele 14/1
Friday weather forecast
Sunny with temperatures in the high 50s, no chance of rain and nothing more than a breeze of around 6 mph.
Leaders after at 18 holes
Wyndham Clark (61) – A new PGA Tour career-low lap and a huge improvement on his debut two years ago (74-73) as he landed 14 greens and needed just the 1.357 putts on them. He ranked second for both SG Tee to Green (5.365) and Putting (4.227).
Billy Horschel (63) – An eighth course appearance and his best start as he seeks a first top ten finish. No-one bettered his SG Putting tally of 5.270 and he was 6-for-6 in Scrambling.
J.B. Holmes (64) – Gained over four strokes on the field with his approach to the greens and over three strokes on the putting surface in a topsy turvy lap. He scratched a double bogey and bogey in his first five holes, but also added a birdie and a hole-in-one. Seven par breakers in his last ten holes turned the lap around.
Fate of the favorites
Jon Rahm landed 15-of-18 greens in regulation and reached the 17th tee without a blemish in his card, only to add a late bogey on his way to an opening lap of 67. Hideki Matsuyama equaled that tally and it was quite an effort after he made a double bogey-6 at his second hole (the 11th). Justin Thomas was level-par through 11 holes, but maintained his patience and ended the day with a 68. Webb Simpson did relatively little wrong in swapping two birdies and two bogeys, but it left him fighting to make the cut.
J.B. Holmes (64) – “I won here twice so I have a lot of good memories. And I just like playing in the desert. The greens are always usually in great shape. When you get to a place where you have a lot of good memories, you just already go in with a little more confidence than you do at other tournaments.”
Harris English (65) – “I started working with a new swing teacher, Justin Parsons, down at Sea Island. It took a little while to get my confidence back and to start hitting it like I know I can. I made it to a lot of weekends, just didn't really finish it off.“
Byeong Hun An (65) – “This is my, I think, my fourth full year and I feel like (the win) is coming. I've been close the last year and the year before. It's not easy to play well all four days and beat the best players on the TOUR. But I really like the course this week and I think this course suits me. Hopefully, I can get my first win here. That would be great.”
Tom Hoge (65) – “I played with Tiger on Sunday last week and just to have that energy and excitement out there it's a blast. I played well here last year, on Saturday I was one of the later groups, so I got to experience all the craziness on the back nine. It's fun and I just try to welcome it and play well.”
Justin Thomas (68) – “It was a bit of a weird day. I didn't get off to a very good start. I just didn't know where the ball was going, to be perfectly honest. I kept missing it left.”
Billy Horschel (63) – “I’ve started seeing shots the last couple weeks. Seeing it on the range is one thing, but seeing it on the golf course and being able to do it on the golf course is another.”
Wyndham Clark (61) – “If you were watching my rounds, I actually played really well the last two weeks. I just wasn't making putts, I wasn't capitalizing.”
Road to victory at TPC Scottsdale
2018 – Rickie Fowler R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2017 – Gary Woodland R1: 7th, R2: 8th, R3: 8th
2016 – Hideki Matsuyama R1: 2nd, R2: 3rd, R3: 3rd
2015 – Hideki Matsuyama R1: 1st, R2: 4th, R3: 2nd
2014 – Brooks Koepka R1: 64th, R2: 20th, R3: 2nd
Notes: It’s far from essential for the eventual winner to be in-contention at this point. Of the last 24 winners, 11 were outside the top ten after 18 holes and six were not in the top 20. Koepka is not the only winner to have left himself plenty to do. Kenny Perry in 2009 was T74 on Thursday night.
Fate of the first round leaders at TPC Scottsdale – where did they finish?
2018 Bill Haas 26th
2017 Matt Kuchar 9th
2015 Ryan Palmer 2nd
Notes: Since 1996 36 players have held or shared the lead after 18 holes and only four of them converted the victory. 11 of them fell outside the top ten and five slumped beyond the top 40
Focus on – J.B. Holmes
A 15th tournament start for the Kentucky man and, despite owning two wins in his first three starts, just a third top ten position after 18 holes. In fact, his 64 is a real bolt from the blue, because although he carded the same number in the second round of his debut in 2006 (when he won), he has never been that low since. He has four top six finishes from those 14 previous starts, but only twice has he been better than T20th after 36 holes and both times when winning – he was second on debut at halfway in 2006 and tied for the lead in 2008. That might inform his aspirations after Friday’s lap.
Saudi International - Recap of the day
With the morning wave having the best of the conditions, the leaderboard was established early and looked set to stay that way for most of the day. Gavin Green, a habitual fast starter, cashed in better than anyone with eight birdies and two bogeys in a 64 to post the early clubhouse lead of 6-under. That was a shot clear of Swedes Henrik Stenson and Sebastian Soderberg, who were joined on 5-under by Spain's Adri Arnaus.
But Graeme McDowell showed his skills in the afternoon winds to birdie the final three holes and catch Green with a 64 of his own. Another duo from the p.m. wave, in-form Victor Perez and Jhonattan Vegas, both birdied the final two holes to swell the group at 5-under while Phil Mickelson came home in just 29 to lie two back.
Of the other big-name Americans, defender Dustin Johnson authored a 3-under 67 but Brooks Koepka traded four birdies with four bogeys for an even-par 70. Patrick Reed, meanwhile, had a day of frustration, failing to make a single birdie in a 3-over 73.
Notables: -3 Dustin Johnson, -1 Abraham Ancer, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Shane Lowry, Sergio Garcia, Evs Thomas Pieters, Lee Westwood, Brooks Koepka, +1 Erik van Rooyen, +2 Ian Poulter, +3 Patrick Reed, Martin Kaymer, +5 Bernd Wiesberger.
Revised betting: 8/1 DJ, Perez, 10/1 G-Mac, 11/1 Stenson, 14/1 Green, 18/1 Lewis, 20/1 Arnaus, Vegas, 25/1 Koepka, Mickelson, 33/1 Min Woo Lee, Fox, Garcia, Lowry.