The first golf round of in 2021 at the Tournament of Champions is in the books, and so far the landscape looks a lot like last year with Justin Thomas thriving, Bryson DeChambeau saying insane things and Harris English playing some of the most proper golf in the world.
English co-leads at 8 under with Thomas ahead of a cohort of other big names behind them. The weather at the Plantation Course at Kapalua, which can oftentimes be nasty, provided tons of scoring conditions on Thursday, and most of the field took advantage with only Tony Finau (+1) and Sebastian Munoz (+2) playing the round over par.
Let’s take a quick dive into the leaderboard to see how it all played out in Round 1 at Kapalua.
T1. Harris English (-8): English continued his tremendous play from 2020 and carried it into a new year with an 8-under 65 on Thursday in which he finished in the top 10 in both strokes gained tee to green and strokes gained putting. This shouldn’t be a massive surprise for a couple of reasons. First, English was one of the 10 best players in the world last year and second, he’s awesome in first rounds. Next step for him will be closing out his first victory since 2013.
T1. Justin Thomas (-8): More of the same from the defending champ as he put together a perfect card despite not driving the ball particularly well. He showed on Thursday why he’s such a tough out because what he lacked from tee to green, he made up for elsewhere. He was tremendous (as he almost always is) around the greens and hit big-time putts to keep his 65 together. One example was the 37-footer for par he hit on No. 13 after a terrible drive. J.T. is probably not the best in the world at anything, but he’s really, really good at everything.
T3. Patrick Reed, Sungjae Im, Sergio Garcia, Robert Streb, Nick Taylor, Ryan Palmer (-6): Reed hit a stunning shot into the final hole and made a short putt for eagle. The good news for him is that he’s striking the ball better than he did last year when he lost in a playoff. His all-around game was terrific on Thursday, and if he continues to be this good off the tee, he’ll vie for his second title here on Sunday.
T9. Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Brendon Todd (-5): There’s only one thing to say about this trio.
T12. Bryson DeChambeau (-4): The Big Boy was — unsurprisingly — No. 2 in the field in strokes gained off the tee. He was also — unsurprisingly — No. 1 in the field in quotations after this round, giving this “wait, what?!” answer about his interaction with world long drive champ Kyle Berkshire, who he’s been working with over the last month or so.
Q. What was the best question you asked him, in your opinion?
DeChambeau: “How hard did you push it? And he said, ‘Until I blackout.'”
Q. So did you get there?
DeChambeau: “Yes. Numerous times. There was times where I was seeing a tunnel and I had to stop. I mean, you just have to stop. That’s about when you stop. There’s a lot to it.”
Q. You didn’t actually blackout?
DeChambeau: “No, no, no. I did not blackout, but I came very close, just like he did. He did the same.”
Just how Sam Snead prepared for every new season as well.
T29. Dustin Johnson (-2): Not a great outing for the best player in the world at the end of the fall. It could have been worse, though, as most of his issues came on the greens where he lost strokes, and he’s only six back of the lead after Round 1. D.J. did say earlier in the week that he feels a little rusty so maybe we should have seen this coming. Regardless, he gets many months’ of free passes after the show he put on at Augusta National in November.
Best bet to win after Round 1: Jon Rahm (18-1). He’s only five back, and that’s a great number.
Worst statistical day: Hideki Matsuyama lost nearly five (!!) strokes on Thursday with his putter. Almost impossible to do!
Most disappointing: I was actually more disappointed by Finau’s 74 than D.J.’s 71. This course has Finau written all over it, and he was lousy on Thursday.
Bet I’m nervous about: Joaquin Niemann over Daniel Berger. Both shot 69 on Thursday. Was hoping Niemann would have a couple shots on him going into Friday.
Most impressive round: Webb Simpson flew over on Wednesday after testing positive for COVID-19 in December, played one of his first rounds in weeks and shot 3 under.