Genesis Open 2020: Matt Kuchar Leads at 7 Under Par After 1st Round

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2020

PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 13: Matt Kuchar of the United States acknowledges fans after making a birdie on the 13th green during the first round of the Genesis Invitational on February 13, 2020 in Pacific Palisades, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Matt Kuchar is cruising.

The veteran golfer was superb on Thursday at the Genesis Open in Pacific Palisades, California, shooting an opening-round seven-under 64 to hold a three-stroke lead over Harold Varner III, Kyoung-Hoon Lee, Russell Henley, Wyndham Clark and Adam Schenk.

Kuchar played a virtually flawless round, with seven birdies and no bogeys. He averaged 298.5 yards per drive, hit 77.8 percent of greens in regulation, 64.3 percent driving accuracy and gained four strokes no the day with his putter, per PGATour.com.

All in all, it was a heck of a day for Kuchar. 

"To shoot a number like this, you kid of do most things well," he said, per the Associated Press. "I didn't find myself in much trouble today. ... I felt like it was just steady golf, a lot of opportunities and I was able to convert on a good number of opportunities today."

Kuchar stole the show, but a number of big names had solid rounds. Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay stayed in the running at three under, while Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods are five strokes off the lead at two under. 

Woods was four under after nine holes, though he cooled off from there. 

"I got off to a nice start on the front nine and just didn't hit many good shots on the back nine," he said, per Bob Harig of ESPN. "Made a couple loose swings and made a couple good saves on the back nine for par, but just wasn't able to get any birdies on the back nine."

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He did, however, provide one of the moments of the day, hitting an eagle putt on his opening hole that traveled exactly 24 feet and eight inches, or the two numbers that NBA legend Kobe Bryant wore during his career. 

"It's ironic, isn't it?" Woods mused, per Ryan Lavner of the Golf Channel. "I didn't know about the putt being that long."

"No matter what we do, I think for a while we're going to always remember Kobe and what he meant, especially here in SoCal and the entire sports world," he added. "Very ironic that it happened to have those numbers on those holes and those exact measurements."

A number of players honored Bryant in more intentional ways on Thursday. 

Play will continue on Friday, with Kuchar looking to expand on his early lead. Given the quality of players within striking distance, however, doing so will be a tall task.