Snedeker leads with 65 as spectators, who return to a PGA Tour event in the U.S. for the 1st time since March, don't go unnoticed
“I think that's a big reason why I played well today,” said American Brandt Snedeker, who shot 5-under 65 at Memorial Park Golf Course to take a two-stroke lead (scores).
The Houston Open, which returned to Memorial Park for the first time since 1963, will admit 2,000 spectators per day this week, the first PGA Tour event in the U.S. to allow fans amid COVID-19 concerns. Up to 500 fans attended last week’s Bermuda Championship, which was the first event to allow spectators since a three-month suspension began March 12 at the Players Championship.
“I kind of feed off their energy,” Snedeker said. “It's great to hear some claps and people excited for good shots and some birdies. That's a big reason why I think I played well. I was excited to be out there and been missing them, so glad to have them back.”
Snedeker, 39, a nine-time winner on the PGA Tour, is seeking his first victory in more than two years. He won the 2012 Tour Championship and has played in two Ryder Cups (2012, 2016) and a Presidents Cup (2013). Snedeker made six birdies, including on all three of the par 5s, against one bogey. His lone blemish came when he missed a 4-foot par putt at the par-4 14th hole.
“This course is a long, tough golf course,” Snedeker said, “so to play well, you need to take advantage of the scoring holes, which I did a great job of today.”
Americans Scottie Scheffler, Michael Thompson and Harold Varner III shot 67s to share second place with Australians Jason Day and Cameron Davis and Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz.
“The energy was definitely a lot different than us just being out here by ourselves,” said Scheffler, the Tour's reigning rookie of the year.
Only 28 players in the 132-man field were under par when play was called because of darkness with nine golfers yet to complete their rounds.
Memorial Park, just west of downtown, is a municipal course recently redesigned by Tom Doak, with help from player consultant Brooks Koepka, who opened with a 2-over 72.
Phil Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion who, at age 50, is playing his customary tuneup in the week ahead of the trip to Augusta National, made bogeys on two of his last three holes and shot 6-over 76 in a birdie-free round.
Though the Tour has worked with local authorities to ease spectators back onto the grounds, the Houston Open will be the last event of the year for fans. Next week’s Masters Tournament, which is run by host Augusta National Golf Club, will not allow spectators. The last two events of the year, the RSM Classic and the Mayakoba Golf Classic, will not permit spectators, according to the PGA Tour.
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