PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – With winds whipping all day at PGA National, the Champion Course appears to have been the winner through 18 holes at the Honda Classic. Here’s how things stand after the opening round, where Jim Herman leads:
Leaderboard: Jim Herman (-5), Brendan Steele (-4), Padraig Harrington (-3), Martin Flores (-3), Patrick Reed (-3), Daniel Berger (-2), Martin Kaymer (-2), Scott Piercy (-2)
What it means: Scores were high all day, but things became especially difficult for the afternoon wave with winds gusting above 20 miles per hour. The carnage left Herman in the lead. He began the week as the second alternate and a few days ago was unsure if he would even have a spot in the field.
Round of the day: Herman made it around PGA National without dropping a shot, carding birdies on Nos. 4 and 8 before adding three more circles on the back nine. It added up to a 5-under 65 and the first lead of his career on the PGA Tour.
Best of the rest: Steele won in windy conditions at the Valero Texas Open in 2011, and the veteran again showed his ability to handle the gusts with a 4-under 66. Steele, who was a runner-up at the Humana Challenge last month, had six birdies against two bogeys.
Biggest disappointment: Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka were expected to give playing partner Rory McIlroy a stiff challenge, but instead both players struggled. Johnson, a playoff loser last week at Riviera, shot a 7-over 77 while Koepka, who won last month in Phoenix, was one shot worse with a 78. McIlroy came in at 73.
Main storyline heading into Friday: While it remains to be seen how Herman will handle the lead, the biggest story is whether McIlroy, a winner here in 2012 and runner-up in 2014, can bounce back. Among the chase pack a player to watch is Reed, who won last month in Hawaii and is the only player in the top five who will have an early tee time Friday.
Shot of the day: Lee Westwood was among the first group out and he had an early highlight with an eagle on the difficult par-4 10th hole. Westwood holed a 3-iron from 211 yards, a shot that helped him to a 1-over 71.
Quote of the day: “I don’t ever recall leading.” – Herman