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As playoff push accelerates, Lee Hodges shoots 63 to lead 3M Open

BLAINE, Minn. — Lee Hodges got off to a good start in his bid to make the FedExCup playoffs, shooting an 8-under 63 on Thursday for a one-stroke lead in the first round of the 3M Open.

Two-time major champion Justin Thomas, who’s trying to make both the playoffs and the U.S. Ryder Cup team, opened with a 69 in windier afternoon conditions at the TPC Twin Cities.

“I played really well,” Thomas said. “I think everybody that played this afternoon was pretty shocked with that wind. I think it was supposed to be somewhere in the kind of 8-to-10 (mph) range, but that was wild. It was not only blowing hard, but it was blowing in different directions.”

Full-field scores from 3M Open

Kevin Streelman had the best of the afternoon rounds with a 64, matching Hideki Matsuyama, Brandt Snedeker and Tyler Duncan. Emiliano Grillo, Nick Hardy and Justin Suh were another shot back, and defending champion Tony Finau was one of nine players to shoot 66.

Hodges entered the week having missed the cut in three of his past four tournaments and 14 of 29 events this season. He’s 74th in the FedExCup standings; the top 70 will make the playoffs that begin in two weeks.

He got off to a hot start with back-to-back birdies.

“To see that wedge shot go to an inch on the first hole and then make that 40-footer on the second hole, I was like, ‘All right, here we go, might as well make a lot of birdies if we’re gonna make a couple,’” Hodges said.

Nick Hardy made a theatrical birdie on his final hole Thursday at the 3M Open, wrapping his iron around a tree.

Thomas is No. 75 in the FedExCup standings. He was grouped with another struggling major champion, Gary Woodland (No. 90), who shot 72.

“I just can’t put into words how far the ball was going. It was just wild. I mean, we had the wind quartering down off the left on 8 and Gary just hit kind of a smooth 8-iron. ... He flew it 205, 200 yards,” Thomas said. “When you get a little bit, just a little bit of altitude like this and it gets this hot, it’s just, it goes. It goes really, really far. I guess I just did a decent job of judging it.”

Due to approaching inclement weather, play was halted Thursday evening with seven groups on the course. Several players were 3 under with a few holes left. They will resume their rounds Friday morning.

Finau was 5 under through his first four holes but stalled from there.

“I didn’t miss a shot for the first seven holes really. That was a pretty hot start, it was a nice way to start my title defense this week and kind of calmed my nerves,” Finau said.

Along with winds topping 20 mph, players in the afternoon had to deal with a heat index of 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

“To get out early where we had a few holes where we didn’t have to deal with wind is pretty key and just take advantage of those holes,” said Suh, also part of the morning wave.

Matsuyama needed some heat-related attention after his round but Tour officials said it was nothing serious.

“It got really hot out there on the back nine. I’ll relax this afternoon and hopefully get ready to play well again tomorrow,” Matsuyama said.

Playing for the sixth time after sternum surgery that sidelined him for nine months, the 42-year-old Snedeker was coming off four straight missed cuts. He had six birdies over eight holes around the turn.

“I knew it was going to be a little learning curve coming back, and took a little longer than I wanted to, but finally able to put a round together today,” Snedeker said. “It was coming, and it was nice to see some putts go in and kind of have an easy stress-free round where I hit the ball really well, didn’t do anything poorly all day.”

Billy Horschel, who entered at No. 119 in the FedExCup, was among the group at 66.

Sepp Straka, coming off a tie for second in The Open, rallied for an even-par 71.