Rocket Mortgage Classic 2019: Nate Lashley Leads at 9 Under After Round 1

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJune 28, 2019

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JUNE 27:  Rickie Fowler plays his shot from the ninth tee during round one of the Rocket Mortgage Classic at the Detroit Country Club on June 27, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Nate Lashley paced the Rocket Mortgage Classic field with a nine-under 63 at Detroit Golf Club on Thursday to take an early lead heading into the second round.


NINE birdies today. @NateLashley finishes the day @RocketClassic with a two-shot lead. #LiveUnderPar https://t.co/ewiyT6PswX

A total of 130 of the tournament's 156 players shot even par or better, with the cut line sitting at three under. Per the PGA Tour, a season high for birdies was also reached:


6⃣7⃣6⃣ birdies. 🐦 The field in @RocketClassic on Thursday combined for the most birdies in a single round this year. #LiveUnderPar https://t.co/EUdPm8ca4y

The game's bigger names mostly fared well. Of note, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson and Hideki Matsuyama each shot four under. On the flip side, Dustin Johnson struggled to a one-under 71, and U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland shot a one-over 73.

Here's a look at the top-10 scoreboard and some of the day's highlights.


Top-10 Scoreboard

1. Nate Lashley: -9

T2. Ryan Armour: -8

T2. Nick Watney: -8

T4. Charles Howell III: -7

T4. Talor Gooch: -7

T4. Chez Reavie: -7

T4. Stewart Cink: -7

T4. Rory Sabbatini: -7

T4. Adam Schenk: -7

T4. Chase Wright: -7



Nate Lashley Scorches Back Nine

The day was going along quite well for Lashley through 12 holes, as he earned a bogey-free four under heading into the par-four 13th.

At that point, Lashley kicked it to an extra gear, birdieing five of the final six to finish as the first-round leader.

Excellent drives and approaches on the 13th and 14th holes led to fairly easy birdies. After parring the 15th, Lashley's flat stick caught fire as he knocked home putts from 14'4", 8'11" and 8'7" to finish his day. An excellent approach on the last helped him end Thursday strong:


⛳️ @NateLashley got in the field @RocketClassic as an alternate on Wednesday. He's now leading by two. #LiveUnderPar https://t.co/AhWNSNLdS9

Lashley earned a 71.43 percent driving accuracy rate and hit 72.22 percent of greens in regulation. He also earned 4.363 strokes gained from putting.

Remarkably, Lashley was a tournament alternate and a late addition to the field, per Jim McCabe of PGATour.com. He's also never held a solo lead in a tournament before and hasn't finished higher than 28th in his past eight competitions.

Lashley, who only needed 23 putts Thursday, explained why he had success.

"I got it under the hole on most holes," Lashley remarked, "and had a lot of uphill putts with not a lot of break."

Lashley was sensational, but the problem is the Detroit Golf Club looks like the home to the easiest tournament of the year right now. Ten players finished seven under or better, so Lashley needs that putter to stay hot for him to keep the rest of the field at bay. That may not be too much of a problem if Thursday is any indication.


Best of the Rest

Ted Potter Jr., who cruised to a bogey-free four-under 68, had little issue with the Detroit Golf Club greens, as evidenced by this 50-footer to start his day on the 10th:


From 50 feet ... 😵 What a way to start the morning, @TedPotterJrPGA. #QuickHits https://t.co/G39PjIJqJx

Fowler didn't need his putter on the par-five 17th thanks to jarring this 122-yard eagle:


SLAM DUNK for @RickieFowler! 🦅 #LiveUnderPar https://t.co/BynJUf3ZpE

Fowler shot four under on the four par-five holes.

Kevin Kisner "only" shot two under on the par fives but dominated everywhere else in his six-under round. His putter was hot all day, like when he sunk this 32'4" putt on the first:


From off the green ... 🐦 @K_Kisner is -5 thru 10 @RocketClassic. #QuickHits https://t.co/Nk933Fr8EJ

Kisner shot seven under through his first 12 holes.

Like Kisner and others, Charles Howell III dominated all day and even sunk two eagles on the par-five seventh and par-five 14th:


This is the 1,867th round of Charles Howell III's career. It's the ninth round where he's had TWO eagles. #LiveUnderPar 🦅 https://t.co/5Kpmzs4anE

Howell finished the day at seven under, and the same went for Chez Reavie, whose stellar approach from 272 yards away on the par-five 17th led to this 21-footer off the fringe:


Chez Reavie with an 🦅 at 17. 👏 #LiveUnderPar https://t.co/DoPpXZZlW2

Reavie is one to watch this week, as he finished third in the U.S. Open and first at the Travelers Championship in his past two events.

All stats via PGATour.com.