Seung-Yul Noh found the fairway at the par-5 18th in the opening round of the AT&T Byron Nelson, laid up to a comfortable yardage and made birdie at the closing hole. Tough to question that strategy, right?
The birdie capped an 11-under-par 60 for the South Korean, which by any standard is a great day at the course. It does, however, beg the question: why not go for it? Why not take the risk with the second shot on 18 and try to make eagle to cement your name in the history books?
Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson
After a 280-yard drive, Noh was left with 257 yards to the hole at the 18th. There was a slight headwind, and Noh, who is seeking his second PGA Tour victory and first since the 2014 Zurich Classic, decided to take the safe route.
“Not too much wind, but for the distance-wise, so my 3-wood going off the ground like 265 [yards] off the ground, but it's like just under 260 without the wind,” Noh said after the round. “It's like borderline … Today is going, everything going good. Even wedge game and putting, everything going good. I'm just trying to make birdie, just forget about the eagle 59.”
The list of players to shoot sub-60 rounds on Tour will remain at 11 for the time being, with Scottie Scheffler the most recent at the 2020 Northern Trust.
Despite coming up just short of golf’s magic number, Noh put together a magical round on Day 1 at TPC Craig Ranch. Nine birdies, an eagle and eight pars culminated in a career-low round for the 31-year-old.
Shooting 60 wasn’t the only “first” Thursday for Noh. He missed his tee shot well to the right of the fairway at the par-4 12th and felt something unusual at impact. When he checked his driver head, it was cracked, which he said has never happened to him prior to today.
He was able to get up and down for par from 149 yards on the 12th to stay bogey-free. He then used his driver once more at the 13th, this time making par after missing left off the tee. Since his driver was cracked in the course of play with no intent, he was then able to replace the driver head for the remainder of the round.
Noh holds a three-shot lead over 2008 Byron Nelson champion Adam Scott and 26-year-old Zecheng Dou.
Scott, who started on the 10th hole, led the field on Day 1 in strokes gained: around the green and was second in strokes gained: off the tee.
"Yeah, all really good solid stuff, especially off the tee," Scott said. "It's probably the best I've driven it in forever. That was a nice way to start every hole. Took advantage of that nicely, certainly out of the gates on some of the long par-4s, birdieing three of the first four holes on that side is a nice way to start. Was happy to keep it going all the way around."
The Australian had just one bogey to go along with nine birdies.
Another shot back at 7 under was a group of six players that included Scottie Scheffler, Jason Day and Ryan Palmer.
Scheffler was 6 under through six holes, before slipping to 3 under after back-to-back bogeys at 12 and 13. The former Longhorn then birdied 14 and 15 before closing with an eagle to get in the group at 7 under.
Two-time defending champion K.H. Lee shot 1 under.