One of the contenders hadn’t played any competitive golf since the Ryder Cup in September, he admitted he “didn’t do too many exciting things” in the three-plus months since, and the rust was showing. For a hole. Patrick Cantlay bogeyed the first. He shot eight-under over over the other 17. “Worried?” Cantlay said earlier this week when asked if he would be after his layoff. “Not particularly worried, but maybe a little more understanding and easy on myself, considering I haven’t competed in three or four months. But the idea is still to prep as best I can and be as prepared as I can and go out and win the golf tournament.” Indeed. Here are three things you need to know after Thursday’s first round of the Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Hawaii.
Cameron Smith leads
Cantlay wasn’t alone in staggering out of the gate, then thundering down the stretch. Cameron Smith bogeyed the 2nd (and missed the green on the 1st), then made two birdies and an eagle over the rest of the front nine, went five-under over four holes on the back and finished with an eight-under 65 and a one-shot lead.
Over his two eagles, he dropped 81 feet of putts — on the 515-yard, par-5 5th, Smith rolled in a 44-footer, then, on the 545-yard, par-5 15th, he sunk a 37-footer.
“Yeah, I mean, I started off pretty terribly, to be honest,” Smith said. “I hit a couple of nice shots in and my yardages weren’t quite on point, I guess. Yeah, I just needed those two eagles to get a really low one happening. Obviously two really long putts and probably quite fortunate that they went in, but they went in.”
Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Daniel Berger are a shot back
One shot back of Smith were Cantlay, world No. 1 Jon Rahm and Daniel Berger. Like Cantlay, Rahm also hit pause for a lengthy stretch before the TOC, not playing since two events in his native Spain in the middle of October. And like Cantlay, the break was barely a blip.
“I mean, you can always expect a little bit of rust,” Rahm said. “But, again, I took time off, but I wasn’t on the couch, right, doing nothing. I was still working out. I was still practicing as if I was still in the season. I took maybe three weeks off of golf, which were very needed. But even though I was home, I was practicing.
“And, again, not that I’m surprised that I played good, but it’s really good to come out and start the year off the right way.”
Brooks Koepka, Collin Morikawa are three back
Also in the 38-player, no-cut field, Bryson DeChambeau is four shots behind Smith, and Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth are six back. Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed and Lucas Glover carded the day’s highest rounds, with one-over 73s.