Brandon Matthews is known for his long drives, but it takes more than a few mammoth-sized tee shots to find yourself on the leaderboard on the PGA Tour.
Matthews started on the par-3 tenth hole in Jackson, Mississippi, and had only gotten it to 1 under through 10 holes despite making eagle at the par-5 14th.
That’s when the long-hitting Matthews – Listed at 6 feet 4 inches tall and 210 pounds – started to put more circles on the scorecard.
Four birdies in his final eight holes resulted in a first-round 5-under 67 that left Matthews one shot back of Davis Riley and Will Gordon's lead at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
Matthews assessed his first round at The Country Club of Jackson.
“It was good,” Matthews said. “The swing coach came in, Dale Gray, earlier this week, and we did a lot of work, and I really liked what we were seeing over the past couple of days. So, it was a really nice transition into what I was doing to what I ended up doing today. I hit a lot of my spots. Hit it nice all day and made it easy on myself.”
One of the things Matthews worked on with Gray was making his swing a bit shorter. He acknowledged that it can be tough to dial it back when you’re one of the longest hitters in the world, but that today was a good day with the driver.
“No matter how many times I tell myself, just kind of go at it easier, go at it easier, when you get in competition, it's harder and harder to do it,” Matthews said. “Having the discipline in order to do so is very important. I really swung the driver great today. I mean, I think I hit the first six or seven fairways that I pulled it out, so it was really nice to see that, and it feels really good in my hands right now.”
In Thursday’s first round, Matthews had tee shots of 340, 339, 335, 333, 330, 327 and 323 yards, leading to more than 1.7 strokes gained: off the tee.
It may come as a surprise that driver was not, statistically, the best club in Matthews’ bag Thursday. He gained strokes in every statistical category, but leading the way was a hot putter, which gained Matthews more than two strokes on the field in the first round.
The hot start from Matthews is especially noteworthy when you consider the way his first start as a member of the PGA Tour ended. The 28-year-old had to withdraw from the Fortinet Championship after just eight holes due to a back injury that dates back five years.
“Unfortunately, I have some back issues. It was the first tournament all year that it kind of went on me,” Matthews said Thursday in Mississippi. “It was one of those things I knew it was a long year. I didn't want to push it because some of the pain I was having was back to when I had the heavy issues back in '17. I wanted to make sure I wasn't out for a month or two instead of just being out for that event and having a week and a half to rest.”
So how did Matthews “rest” in the short time between the Fortinet Championship and Sanderson Farms?
He got married.
Matthews and his new wife, Danielle, were married this past Saturday in his home state of Pennsylvania, just five days before he teed it up in Jackson.
It’s hard to beat a 67 in your first round as a married man, and Matthews made sure to joke with his wife after Thursday’s first round.
“I told her when I walked off, we should have got married sooner.”