A set of winners has congregated near the top of this week’s CJ Cup at Shadow Creek leaderboard as Tyrrell Hatton (-7) leads with Xander Schauffele (-6) and Jon Rahm (-5) just behind him after Round 1. They may not be the three biggest names in the field, but they all post wins at an impressive clip and are now the three biggest threats to take down this $9.75 million purse.
Surprisingly (unless you’ve been following along), Hatton has won at the steadiest rate so far in 2020. He’s won two of the 11 events he’s played so far in 2020, including last week’s BMW PGA Championship in the U.K., which bumped him to the No. 10 player in the Official World Golf Rankings.
On Thursday, Hatton shot a 7-under 65 to pace the field despite not feeling all that well after 20 hours worth of traveling from England to Las Vegas for this week’s PGA Tour event. He said after his round that his caddie has been waking up at 2:30 a.m. local time this week, but they still went out and threw together the best round the day in a field that’s among the best of the year. Hatton started 5 under through his first five and played the next 13 in a tidy 2 under for the lead.
“Almost like I was in a dream,” he said of the first five holes. “Five under through five I think we were, which holing out on the third hole … that’s a bonus from 87 yards. Yeah, we got off to a great start. It was nice to have momentum early. I imagine it would have been a lot tougher round if being as tired as I was we didn’t quite have that momentum. To shoot that score today, I’m really happy with.”
Two others who should be happy about gaining over five strokes on this stacked field are Schauffele and Rahm. The latter has been excellent over his last five events, notching one of his two wins on the year and finishing in the top 15 in four of the five. He finished second to Hatton from tee to green on Thursday and was brilliant in that area. Here’s how well he Rahm hit the ball: He somehow shot 67 and is T4 despite putting it worse than field average.
Schauffele, on the other hand, was terrific in every category. He gained 1.4 strokes in every category, which is a nice depiction of his overall game. Of the best players in the world, Schauffele, Rahm, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas are probably the most well-rounded overall. Schauffele showed that off on Thursday at Shadow Creek as he made just one bogey en route to his 66.
If Thomas is the king of fall PGA Tour events, Schauffele is his prince. Last year he finished top 10 in all three events he played on the Asian swing, and the year before that he won the HSBC Champions in China in the fall. Additionally, he’s been probably the best player on the planet over the last three months. Though that has not resulted in a victory — his only “win” this year, according to the OWGR came at the Tour Championship, where he won the 72-hole race but lost the tournament because he started at a deficit — his strokes-gained numbers have been off the charts.
There’s no real surprise that any of these three are atop this board after 18 holes, and there won’t be any surprise if they remain there throughout the weekend. Three world-class players who win a lot duking it out for CJ Cup supremacy with the Masters just one month away is a great way to start the final push toward the biggest tournament of the year.