News & Opinion

Brandon Hagy seizes his chance on PGA Tour

2021 The American Express round 1
Winter in the California desert has its moments, doesn't it? Australia's Aaron Baddeley and American Doc Redman stroll toward the 9th green Thursday during the 1st round of the PGA Tour's American Express tournament on the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West in La Quinta.

After having gained entry to The American Express only 3 days earlier when Jon Rahm withdrew, Hagy grabs 1st-round lead

Opportunity came knocking this week for Brandon Hagy, and he answered quickly Thursday.

Hagy, who landed a spot in the PGA Tour’s The American Express when Jon Rahm withdrew on Monday, made 10 birdies and shot 8-under 64 on Thursday for the first-round lead (scores).

Playing the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course, one of two sites in use for the first 36 holes at PGA West, Hagy rebounded from a three-putt bogey on the first hole to birdie six holes in a seven-hole stretch on the front nine.

Hagy, 29, a native Californian who played college golf at Cal-Berkeley, is looking for his first victory in his 77th start on the PGA Tour. He has struggled this season, missing four cuts in six starts in the fall before he missed another cut last week at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

But all of that appeared to be far in his past on a 75-degree winter day in the California desert.

“I've been working on some good stuff the last couple weeks, and I hit a lot of iron shots close,” he said. “I made kind of those 10- to 15-foot midrange putts the whole day, which you're going to have to make a few of those to put 10 birdies on the card.”

Hagy and his wife, Julia, welcomed their first child, daughter Hunter, five months ago, and he likes the vibe at home.

“There's nothing better than seeing a smile when you leave to go to the course,” he said, “and then you get the same smile when you come back.”

South Korea’s Byeong Hun An shot 7-under 65 for solo second place. Another South Korean, Si Woo Kim, shared third with Scotland’s Martin Laird and American Max Homa, who teamed with Hagy in college at Cal, at 66. All played the Nicklaus course except for Kim, who opened on the Stadium Course.

Some of the game’s big names struggled in the first round.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka, making his 2021 debut after struggling with an ongoing injury to his left knee, shot 72 on the Nicklaus course. Tournament host Phil Mickelson, a five-time major winner and two-time champion of the former Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, shot 74 at Nicklaus. Kevin Na, who won last week’s Sony Open, shot 75 on the Stadium Course.

After the 36-hole cut to the low 65 and ties, play will move to the Stadium Course for the weekend.

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