Russell Knox leads the Mayakoba Golf Classic after Round 1 following a stellar 6-under 65 that has him one stroke up on a quartet of other players going into Friday’s second round. While the rest of the leaderboard is interesting, several stars — including Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka — did not have their best stuff in the final PGA Tour event of 2020.
There is work to be done for J.T. just to make the cut on Friday (see below), and considering he’s only missed six cuts in the last three years, that’s surprising given the caliber of this field and how well he’s been playing. Thomas has not finished outside the top 12 in any of his last five events (including two majors) so I suspect he’ll rebound come Friday.
Several other big names encompass some interesting storylines heading into the second round as well, and a couple of them are trying to break the decade-old Puerto Rico Open curse. Let’s start there, at the top of this week’s board after Round 1.
T2. Joaquin Niemann (-5): Niemann’s golf has been impressive, but everything that’s not golf has been maybe even more impressive for the 22-year-old. Niemann has pledged this week’s paycheck to help his newborn cousin, who is battling a rare disease and badly needs an incredibly expensive drug. I think everybody is rooting for him to win.
T5. Viktor Hovland (-4): One of the two golfers battling the Puerto Rico Open curse (and currently the low Oklahoma State Cowboy in the field). This course does not necessarily scream Hovland’s name, but he putted it great on Thursday and is squarely in the mix.
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T5. Tony Finau (-4): The other guy going against Puerto Rico, and the same logic applies here. This course often rewards shorter and straighter, but Finau got in the house at 4 under and is currently the 10-1 favorite to go on to win the event.
T35. Rickie Fowler (-1): Fowler, who needs a good week to qualify for next year’s Masters, somehow shot under par with both a quadruple bogey and a double bogey on the card. That seems impossible to do, but he chipped in eight birdies to go with the mishaps and is hovering around contention.
T58. Brooks Koepka (E): The swing looks fine, but Koepka never could get anything going and made a late bogey to drop back to even. I remain unconvinced that Koepka — who said that dropping to No. 12 in the world this week was bad (it is for him) — really has any juice right now. Maybe that changes on Friday and Saturday, but he seems a bit in neutral.
T70. Justin Thomas (+1): Thomas played in the tougher morning wave and made just three birdies, a rarity for him on a course like this one. He’ll need something in the mid-60s on Friday to really be in it going to the weekend and to have a chance to bookend his 2020 just how he started it (with a win).