Hatton grabs first-round lead in US PGA CJ Cup

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Britain’s Tyrrell Hatton, coming off a European Tour victory last weekend at Wentworth, fired a seven-under par 65 yesterday to grab a one-stroke lead at the US PGA CJ Cup at Shadow Creek.

A day after his 29th birthday, the Englishman had three birdies and an eagle in his first five holes, finishing one ahead of American Russell Henley and American Xander Schauffele and two atop Spain’s Jon Rahm and American Tyler Duncan despite the trip over from England.

“Very happy with that round today,” Hatton said. “Felt pretty tired out there. Pace of play was pretty slow. Still struggling with jet lag. Pretty happy with that score.”

Hatton took his fifth career European Tour victory in last week’s BMW PGA Championship after taking his first US PGA victory on March 8 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the last event completed before the tour’s three-month COVID-19 shutdown.

Coronavirus issues prompted the CJ Cup, typically staged in South Korea, to be played in Las Vegas.

Hatton started on the back nine with back-to-back birdies then holed out from the fairway for eagle from 92 yards at the par-4 12th.

Tyrrell Hatton plays his shot from the 13th tee during the first round of the CJ Cup in Las Vegas, Nevada. PHOTO: AFP

He rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt at the par-4 14th and sank a five-foot birdie putt at the par-3 17th. A par at 18 closed out a first-nine 30, matching his best nine in any PGA event despite his struggles.

“My swing felt horrific on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Hatton said. “I concentrated a little more today. I hit some loose shots, which is to be expected, but I knew I could shoot well and I did.”

Hatton sank a putt inside four feet to birdie the first but missed the green with his approach at the second and made bogey. He made a 10-foot birdie putt at the par-5 fourth but stumbled with a bogey at the par-4 sixth before answering with a an eight-foot birdie putt at the par-3 eighth to seize the outright lead at 7-under and closed with a par.

“I putted nice today,” Hatton said. “I need to continue that over the next three days.”

Henley opened on the back nine and made birdies at the 10th and 12th before a three-putt bogey at the par-3 13th, but reached the par-5 18th green in two and holed a 10-foot eagle putt.

“Making a three right there was great,” Henley said.

He made a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-4 second, a 13-footer at the par-5 seventh and closed with a birdie putt from just inside four feet at the par-4 ninth.

“I felt really good ball-striking wise,” Henley said. “I kept the ball in front of me really well and felt really good over a lot of my putts, too. Just gave myself a lot of good looks.

“Just learning the par-3s and how the ball reacts on these greens as firm and fast as they are and just getting used to that is the biggest thing.”

Schauffele had seven birdies and one bogey, joining Henley on six-under with a birdie at the par-five 18th.

Defending champion Justin Thomas took a double-bogey seven at the 18th to finish the first round tied for 32nd on even par 72.