Keegan Bradley exploded for a course-record round of 60 on Thursday at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, taking a three-shot lead over fellow 2011 major champion Charl Schwartzel.
The par-70 TPC Four Seasons Resort yielded a lot of low numbers in the morning wave. That has created somewhat of a logjam on the leaderboard, after the extraordinary distance that Bradley has put between himself and the rest of the field.
Below is a look at the top contenders through the first 18 holes in Irving, Texas. For complete scores, head over to PGA.com.
|1 ||Keegan Bradley ||-10|
|2||Charl Schwartzel ||-7|
|T3||Harris English ||-6|
|T3||Ted Potter Jr. ||-6|
|T3||Robert Karlsson ||-6|
|T6||Angel Cabrera ||-5|
|T6||Camilo Villegas ||-5|
|T6||Ryan Palmer ||-5|
|T9||Scott Piercy ||-4|
|T9||Sang-Moon Bae ||-4|
Note: All statistics and video are courtesy of PGATour.com.
No one would come close to matching Bradley's prowess in Round 1, as he got off to a hot start in birdieing five of his first seven holes. As spectacular as his day was overall, it wasn't without trials and tribulations.
Bradley began on the back nine, and he made bogey at No. 18 as he made the turn then dropped another shot on the next hole to fall back to three under.
It didn't take long for him to rebound. The par-three second hole was where the true eruption in his round began, as he nailed a 17-footer for birdie to get back on track:
Two more birdies followed at Nos. 4 and 5, and a magnificent closing stretch was defined by an eagle at No. 7 (captured below) followed by two more to close the last three holes at four under par:
The fact that Bradley made two bogeys speaks volumes to how hot he was. ESPN's Justin Ray points out the mistakes Bradley made that ironically made his round that much more special:
Justin Ray @JustinRayGC
There have now been 26 rounds of 60 or 59 on @PGATOUR since 1960. @Keegan_Bradley is the 1st one in that span with multiple bogeys.2013-5-16 17:59:44
Bradley's phenomenal effort matched Phil Mickelson's low round of the 2013 season, which Lefty fired at the Phoenix Open on the first day (where he went won). The two have forged a strong bond and played well at the Ryder Cup, so Phil the Thrill will likely congratulate Bradley this evening.
Schwartzel has to be somewhat disappointed to post a bogey-free round with seven birdies and still find himself three strokes off the pace, but there is plenty of time to catch Bradley over the next three days.
Let's take a look at the other developing storylines, outside of Bradley's historic display of golf and Schwartzel's bid to win on the PGA Tour for just the second time.
14-year-old Phenom Continues to Shine
Not much more can be said about Chinese sensation Tianlang Guan except, "Wow."
A sponsor's exemption plopped him in the field this week, and he finds himself in the mix to make it beyond the 36-hole cut again after a respectable round of 70.
The low amateur at the Masters held on after an early bogey at No. 2 then birdied the par-five seventh hole and the par-fourth ninth to turn in his one-under 34.
Check out his work with the flatstick to cap off Guan's impressive work on the front nine:
Jason Sobel of Golf Channel provided his typically humorous commentary about the prodigious Guan, who may not net any earnings as an amateur but at least doesn't have to cover any entry cost:
Jason Sobel @JasonSobelESPN
Guan Tianlang playing a PGA Tour event again. Cheapest hobby around. No entry fee. Your round with Grandma at the Pitch-N-Putt costs more.2013-5-16 21:26:09
Could a youngster at age 14 really make three consecutive PGA Tour cuts in a row? It seems unfathomable, but Guan seems up to the challenge. Continually solid putting and outstanding play with his longer irons give Guan a shot at making it to the weekend yet again.
Former Elite Players Contending Early
Robert Karlsson and Camilo Villegas have been ranked as high as sixth and seventh in the world golf rankings, respectively, but have experienced significant plummets in recent years.
The towering Swede Karlsson is an 11-time winner on the European Tour but has never quite gotten it done on this side of the pond. After a stellar 64, he is in position to notch his maiden PGA Tour victory.
Villegas won the BMW Championship—a FedEx Cup playoff event—back in 2008. His extreme flexibility, grip-it-and-rip-it style and flashes of brilliance in majors had him as one of the fastest rising stars in the game.
All of the wind has been sucked out of that momentum, unfortunately. That doesn't mean the promising Colombian is giving up.
Though he's been inactive on Twitter since May 1, the most recent move came when he retweeted inspiring words from golf legend Gary Player:
Gary Player @garyplayer
I believe this with all my heart - "Instead of giving myself reasons why I CAN'T, I give myself reasons why I CAN"....2013-5-1 13:13:42
Putting and generally inconsistent ball-striking has plagued Villegas, but he was bidding to match or even pass Bradley late in his round. The inconsistency resurfaced, though, as Villegas finished with a double bogey and bogey to drop to five under.
Having said that, the explosion by Villegas is a good sign. Whether he can maintain it for four rounds—or even two—remains to be seen.
Defending Champion Struggles, Hits Shot of the Day
On a day where he watched his competitor soar to the top of the leaderboard, defending champion Jason Dufner continued to struggle with an even-par 70.
Before he was done, however, he holed out from the fairway for eagle for the second week in a row at the par-four first hole—his 10th:
It looks as though Dufner will have his work cut out for him to mount a legitimate defense of the trophy at this event. It's been a tough 2013, as he's registered zero top 10s after a wonderful previous year.
Dufner lost in a 2011 PGA Championship playoff to his competitor Bradley and became Ryder Cup teammates with him this past season. Perhaps seeing Bradley's strong play will spark something in Dufner to ascend to the level he became accustomed to in 2012.