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Phoenix Open 2021: Mark Hubbard, Matthew NeSmith Tied for Lead After Round 1

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 5, 2021

Mark Hubbard hits from the 12th tee during the first round of the BMW Championship golf tournament, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020, at Olympia Fields Country Club in Olympia Fields, Ill. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Mark Hubbard and Matthew NeSmith each shot 63 in the first round of the 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open to share the early lead over a loaded field.

The event at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona features four of the top six players in the World Golf Ranking as well as a lengthy list of competitors seeking to get a key early tournament win in the 2021 schedule.

Hubbard and NeSmith have a leg up on the field after Thursday's action, although Nate Lashley and Sam Burns sit just one stroke back.

These players will now try to keep it going for three more days in order to stay on top of the leaderboard.

    

Round 1 Leaderboard

T1. Matthew NeSmith (-8)

T1. Mark Hubbard (-8)

T3. Nate Lashley (-7)

T3. Sam Burns (-7)

5. Steve Stricker (-6)

T6. Tom Hoge (-5)

T6. Xander Schauffele (-5)

T6. Ted Potter Jr. (-5)

T6. Keegan Bradley (-5)

T6. Billy Horschel (-5)

T6. Kyoung-Hoon Lee (-5) 

Full leaderboard and stats available at PGATour.com.

There were low scores throughout the round as 69 players finished below par in Round 1.

One key was the shape of the greens, which were much easier than a week ago:

Justin Ray @JustinRayGolf

The field is enjoying the change in green surface this week compared to last. Putts made percentage, 4 to 8 feet: Last week, Torrey Pines South - 60.6% Today, TPC Scottsdale - 69.6%

Many players took advantage, with Jon Rahm registering one of the best shots of the day with his long putt on the first hole:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Dropping a 54-foot birdie putt to begin the week.❗️ @JonRahmPGA is off and running. #QuickHits https://t.co/cDca5nJAe9

The world's No. 2 picked up three more birdies throughout the day and remains in good shape at three strokes under par.

Brooks Koepka also had his putter working on his way to seven birdies:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Add a 25 footer to the tally. 🐦 That's 3 straight birdies for @BKoepka and he's within 2 of the lead. #QuickHits https://t.co/iYbPnqS9Rv

He gained 2.581 strokes from putting in Round 1, but overall consistency was an issue with two bogeys and one double bogey on his way to a three-under 68.

The leaders didn't have this type of trouble with their ability to hit greens and fairways throughout the day.

NeSmith and Hubbard each reached 16 of 18 greens in regulation on their way to 63s that featured impressive shots from all over the course: 

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

First time playing @WMPhoenixOpen ... ... knocks it to 6 inches on the 16th. 😲 @Matt_KneeSmith is 5-under thru 7 and leads by 1. #QuickHits https://t.co/QNSSDma8cb

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

5 birdies on his last 6 holes and 4 straight to finish his round. @HomelessHubbs is tied for the lead @WMPhoenixOpen. See every shot inside the 16th hole's stadium this week with TOURCast.

Both men had eight birdies and zero bogeys and both are seeking their first career PGA Tour victory. Despite the strong start, a high finish isn't guaranteed with a lot of big names just off the lead.

Xander Schauffele, the world No. 4, is in a tie for sixth place after shooting 66 thanks in part to a hot stretch around the turn:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

5 birdies in his last 6 holes. 👀 Cruise control has been turned on for @XSchauffele. #QuickHits https://t.co/qrrwlF9TFQ

Steve Stricker is also surprisingly in contention after the 53-year-old posted a 65 in Round 1.

Rory McIlroy wasn't quite as smooth during the opening round but flashed his ability with five birdies on the way to a 70.

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

First time playing the 16th. @McIlroyRory finds a way to give 'em a show. 💪 #QuickHits https://t.co/zLzYlAsP4P

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Started: +3 thru 2 Currently: -1 There's no quit in @McIlroyRory. 👊 #QuickHits https://t.co/VnLC2kaJXh

Some improved putting could help the world No. 6 move into the top 10.

Justin Thomas and defending champion Webb Simpson, who respectively rank second and ninth in the world, are also among those who can climb in the coming days.

It will still take a strong showing over the next three rounds to win this event after the scores posted on Thursday.