WASHINGTON (AFP) – Wes Roach, chasing his first United States (US) PGA title, made three birdies and an eagle in the first six holes on the way to grabbing a one-stroke lead at the Palmetto Championship at Congaree.
The 32-year-old American, whose best career finish was a share of third in Detroit in 2019, fired a seven-under par 64, one off his career low, for his first overnight PGA lead.
“I did everything pretty well. I drove it nice. I putted as good as I have in a while,” Roach said. “It feels great. Hard work paying off a little bit.
“It’s just 18 holes and there’s a long ways to go, but I’m just going to do my best to stay present out there and continue to hit quality shots.”
Top-ranked hometown hero Dustin Johnson fired a bogey-free 65 to share second with fellow Americans Doc Redman and Chesson Hadley and South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen while Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas was sixth on 66.
“It was a really solid day and I’m definitely pleased with the round. I’m playing well,” Johnson said.
“I’ve been swinging well for a while, just haven’t really seen the results. Made a few putts, finally put a round together. If I can keep the putter rolling it’s going to be a fun week.”
The event is a one-off replacement tournament for the Canadian Open, which was cancelled due to COVID-19, and serves as the final tune-up for next week’s US Open at Torrey Pines.
Roach holed birdie putts from 10 feet at the par-five second and seven feet at the third before holing out from 104 yards at the par-five fourth and adding a birdie from five feet at the sixth.
“I got off to a good start, a nice up and down from the sand on one and then made a couple birdies,” Roach said. “I holed out on the fourth so that was a nice bonus as well.”
He added birdies at the ninth and par-five 12th and answered a bogey at 13 with a birdie at 16 from just inside 19 feet.
“It was kind of on cruise control,” Roach said. “It’s nice to see the ball rolling where I’m looking and going in the hole is a bonus.”
Johnson, the 2016 US Open and 2020 Masters winner, won February’s Saudi International but hasn’t cracked a US top-10 since February at Riviera.
It was Johnson’s lowest opening round since last November’s Masters victory despite no birdies on par-five holes.
Johnson, who began on the back nine, dropped his approach inches from the cup to set up at birdie at 15, holed four birdie putts from five to 10 feet and closed by chipping in from 82 feet at the ninth.
“I missed it in the right spots when I did miss it, but hit a lot of real quality iron shots and gave myself a lot of looks,” Johnson said. “It was just a really solid day and kind of had good control of my golf ball.”
Van Rooyen fired a season low after missing the cut in his past four starts.
“Made some really solid par saves, just some momentum builders really, and from there on things just flowed nicely,” the South African said.
Hadley, whose only PGA win came at the 2014 Puerto Rico Open, matched his low score of the season and seeks his first top 10 since sharing ninth at the 2019 US Open, his best finish in nine major starts.
World number 156 Redman, whose best finish was as the 2019 Detroit runner-up, managed his first top-10 of the year by finishing ninth at last month’s Byron Nelson.