Byeong Hun An and Sungjae Im are tied for first at eight under following the opening round of the 2019 Wyndham Championship on Thursday at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Mackenzie Hughes, Rory Sabbatini, Johnson Wagner and Patrick Rodgers are tied for third at seven under. Twenty-four golfers are within three shots of An and Im through 18 holes.
An and Im's rounds were almost mirror images of one another, evenly splitting four birdies on each of the front and back nines. An had a slight edge in driving, hitting nine of the 14 fairways and averaging 316.4 yards off the tee, per PGATour.com. Im reached one more green in regulation (16) and had a decided advantage in putting, gaining 2.839 strokes to An's 0.457.
Of course, Im made his life easier on the green when he's getting this close to the flagstick. His tee shot on No. 16 left him with a two-foot birdie putt.
Im knows all too well his performance Thursday offers no guarantees about the final outcome. He has six top-10 finishes this year yet is one of six golfers in the top 25 of the FedExCup standings still looking for a win.
Webb Simpson's luck has been just as bad. He owns a 69.326 scoring average, fourth-best on the PGA Tour, but remains stuck on five career victories.
Simpson set himself up well for a title challenge, finishing at six under Thursday. He shook off a bogey on No. 2 to earn back-to-back birdies and then an eagle on No. 5.
With most of the competition already in the clubhouse, Johnson Wagner steadily climbed up the leaderboard at the end of the day. Birdies on the 13th and 15th holes put him at six under and he closed out the round with another birdie on No. 18.
Whether he ultimately comes out on top, every stroke counts for Wagner.
Denny McCarthy could rue the way he concluded his round. A quartet of birdies on the back nine helped get him to seven under with a shot of moving into the lead.
Instead, his second-shot approach on No. 18 landed in the bunker to the right of the green. He needed two shots just to get out of the sand and then two-putted for a double bogey, slipping down to five under and a share of 16th.
Jordan Spieth owned a share of third place before a bogey on No. 18 knocked him back to six under. The damage could've been even worse considering his drive sailed right and out of bounds. He recovered nicely, sinking a difficult putt to lose only one stroke.
Thursday was a microcosm of Spieth's season. He lost 1.139 shots from tee to green in the opening round, per PGATour.com, and finds himself in the thick of things largely through his work on the green. He's second in the tournament in putting strokes gained (5.126) and fourth in putts per GIR (1.462).
That kind of reliance on his putter probably isn't sustainable over the entirety of the Wyndham Championship, something that has proved true throughout the year.