Patrick Cantlay shot a 10-under 62 in perfect weather and turf conditions Thursday at La Quinta Country Club for a share of the first-round lead with rookie Lee Hodges in The American Express.
Cantlay played the first seven holes in 7 under, making an eagle on the par-5 sixth and five birdies. The FedEx Cup champion added birdies on Nos. 11-13, two of them par 5s, and closed with five straight pars.
“I got off to a roll at the start and kind of made a bunch of putts and then I kind of lagged on the way coming in,” Cantlay said. “But I was happy with everything. I thought I did everything well and it’s a golf course I really like. It’s in perfect shape and so, if you get the ball rolling on line, it should go in.”
Cantlay won the BMW Championship and Tour Championship in his final two starts last year and opened this year with a fourth-place finish two weeks ago in Hawaii at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Last year in the desert, the 29-year-old former UCLA player closed with a Stadium Course-record 61 to finish a shot behind winner Si Woo Kim.
“I grew up a couple hours away, so there are a bunch of friendly faces in the crowd and so it’s really fun,” Cantlay said. “It’s the best part of what I do is when you get on a roll like that and you’re making a bunch of birdies.”
Hodges made a memorable debut in the event. The former Alabama star played the back nine at La Quinta in 7-under 29, eagling the par-5 fifth and making five birdies.
“It’s one of my favourite golf courses I’ve ever played, to be honest,” Hodges said. “I played it I guess three times now and it’s spectacular. It’s like hitting off of mats half the time. It’s just in perfect shape. You get rewarded for good shots out here, which I like that. Good golf gets rewarded.”
Cameron Young and K.H. Lee were tied for third at 64. Young played at La Quinta, and Lee on the Stadium Course.
Brandt Snedeker was at 65 with Joseph Bramlett, Greyson Sigg, Sam Ryder, Danny Lee, Tom Hoge, Wyndham Clark and Seamus Power. Snedeker and Clark played at La Quinta, Bramlett and Ryder at the Stadium Course, and Lee, Hoge, Power and Sigg at the Nicklaus Tournament Course.
The players who opened at La Quinta will play the Nicklaus Tournament Course on Friday and the adjacent Stadium Course on the weekend, with strong wind expected Saturday.
Top-ranked Jon Rahm and Graeme McDowell were in the group at 66, both playing at La Quinta.
“I liked the score and the weather,” Rahm said. “It’s always a very enjoyable walk out here. La Quinta Country Club it’s a great golf course. It’s always in pristine shape, one of the best we play all year shape-wise.”
McDowell played the event only once before, missing the cut in 2003.
“I think my caddy and I are both looking at each other wondering why it’s taken us so long to get here,” McDowell said. “Obviously, the weather is perfect and these golf courses are so well presented.”
Harry Higgs had a hole-in-one on the par-3 15th at La Quinta in a 66. He used a 5-iron on the 199-yard hole.
Tournament host Phil Mickelson was tied for last in the 156-player field after a 78 at La Quinta. He made a quintuple-bogey 9 on the par-4 eighth after hitting two drives out of bounds right.