Ryan Palmer fired an eight-under round of 62 on Thursday to grab a one-stroke lead through 18 holes at the 2013 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial over John Rollins.
University of Texas star Jordan Spieth continues to impress on the PGA Tour as a 19-year-old, and he headlines a plethora of players at five-under after a 65.
The sensational display Palmer put on began with a run of four consecutive birdies after opening with four pars in a row. That occurred on Nos. 14 through 17, since Palmer began his day on the back nine.
Another birdie at the par-five opening hole just after the turn kept the momentum going, and birdies at three of his final four holes capped of a stupendous round.
Below is a look at the top contenders in Fort Worth, Texas, after the first day. For complete scores, visit PGA.com.
|1 ||Ryan Palmer ||-8|
|2||John Rollins ||-7|
|T3||Graham DeLaet ||-6|
|T3||Morgan Hoffmann ||-6|
|T3||David Hearn ||-6|
|T7||Matt Kuchar ||-5|
|T7||Jordan Spieth ||-5|
|T7||Tommy Gainey ||-5|
|T7||Daniel Summerhays ||-5|
|T7||Josh Teater ||-5|
Note: All statistics and video are courtesy of PGATour.com.
Renowned golf analyst Steve Elling highlights the significance of Palmer's 62:
Steve Elling @EllingYelling
Sometimes, records mean something. Ryan Palmer's 62 matched lowest opening round ever at Colonial, a tournament with a good bit of history.5/23/2013, 7:04:33 PM
Elling's analysis hits the nail right on the head—sometimes records do indeed mean something. This course is dubbed, "Hogan's Alley," named for golfing legend Ben Hogan, who won the tournament a record five times while no other golfer has triumphed more than twice.
Adding to the significance is what Palmer has had to endure off the course. His best childhood friend, Clay Aderholt, passed away mere weeks ago in a car accident while Palmer was competing in The Players Championship.
Instead of withdrawing, the veteran Palmer ground it out and wound up with a career-best tie for fifth at TPC Sawgrass. A lackluster result last week at the HP Byron Nelson Championship was completely remedied by the magnificent day he had at Colonial Country Club.
Not far behind is a phenomenal ball-striker in Rollins, who played alongside Canadian Graham DeLaet, and the two fed off each other.
It was a successful effort overall for Rollins, but he got an added bonus and broke out of the jumble of players at six-under—including DeLaet—with this birdie putt at the par-four 18th to finish:
Let's take a closer look at some of the exciting developments transpiring at this historic venue entering the second day.
Canada in Contention
DeLaet and his Canadian compatriot, David Hearn, shot matching 64s to hold a share of third place.
It was almost as if they were operating on the same wavelengths in getting off to hot starts, as Bob Weeks of TSN pointed out:
Bob Weeks @BobWeeksTSN
Hot starts for @GrahamDeLaet and @HearnDavid -- both are -5 and T3 through 8 and 9 holes respectively.5/23/2013, 7:10:08 PM
Though the talented tandem cooled off down the stretch, it is still an ideal position to be in. Having that type of padding on such a tough course is key. Consider where last year's third-place finisher, Tommy Gainey, finished—his four-day total was minus-seven.
The only Top 10 for Hearn in 2013 came at the Puerto Rico Open, which happens to correspond with one of the World Golf Championship events and doesn't sport a particularly strong field.
A strong finish at Colonial is worth a lot more, and if he continues putting like he did in holing this one on the par-four 16th, he's in for a good week:
Putting is really the Achilles heel for DeLaet, because he's had an exceptional ball-striking campaign to say the least, ranking second on Tour in greens in regulation percentage. Should he maintain that form and sink a few putts, things could turn for him very quickly.
Young Guns Making Noise
Home-state hero Jordan Spieth was mentioned earlier, and rightfully so. He hit 17-of-18 greens in regulation, which gave him plenty of opportunities to score well on an unusually generous course.
The all-around game that Spieth sports is rare in a player of his age and relative inexperience, but that seems to be the trend in golf lately.
Look no further than Morgan Hoffmann, who played on the prolific Oklahoma State golf team and is on an absolute tear as of late, to which Sean Martin of PGATour.com alludes:
Sean Martin @PGATOURSMartin
.@Morgan_Hoffmann's scoring average in his last 3 @PGATOUR rounds: 65.3 (66-66-64). That's a 196 total for 54 holes.5/23/2013, 8:45:27 PM
Hoffmann finished in a share of fifth place last week for his first career Top 10, and that momentum is certainly translating to this event, as he bested the gallery favorite Spieth by one shot.
This will be an interesting battle to watch as the week wears on. Whether the two are consistent enough or capable of handling the stage as contenders in the final two rounds remains to be seen, but both appear comfortable with their games.
Both were bogey-free, which is an indicator that these youngsters may have staying power due to their resiliency and ability to avoid the big number.
Return to Form for Matt Kuchar?
By implying a resurgence, it's meant as a compliment to Kuchar and the ridiculously high standard he sets with his consistency.
The past three events simply haven't been up to par. No one can blame him for not successfully defending his title at The Players—no one's ever done that. However, that was sandwiched between two other finishes outside the Top 30.
If the first round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational is any indication, it appears Kuchar is primed to rack up yet another Top 10.
The PGA Tour's official Twitter page documented earlier in the day a statistic that encompasses Kuchar's trademark steadiness and also suggests he'll fare well at this particular venue:
PGA TOUR @PGATOUR
Matt Kuchar ties the clubhouse lead (65) at Colonial. He's never missed the cut in 6 appearances at the @CrownePlazaInv.5/23/2013, 5:23:39 PM
Kuchar dropped just one stroke and countered with six birdies en route to a 65. As the highest-ranked player on the leaderboard by far, it wouldn't be a shock to see Kuchar capitalize on the situation and even grab the 36-hole advantage if conditions tighten up.