Los Angeles, United States — Canadian rookie Taylor Pendrith, making up for lost time after a broken rib sidelined him almost four months, fired a seven-under par 65 on Friday to take a one-shot lead in the US PGA Tour Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, Michigan.
Pendrith, chasing a first US tour title, started the day tied for the lead with Tony Finau. With eight birdies and one bogey at Detroit Golf Club his 15-under par total of 129 put him one in front of the American — who is coming off a victory in the 3M Open in Minnesota last week.
“I think today especially I hit my driver really well, hit a lot of fairways,” said Pendrith, who found 13 of 14 fairways. “And my wedges were good. The distances were pretty consistent and gave myself a lot of nice birdie putts.”
He jumped out of the gate with birdies at the first four holes, rolling in an 11-footer to start his round before giving himself a tap-in at the second.
Pendrith drained six- and seven-foot birdie putts at the third and fourth and made another short one at the seventh, picking up three more birdies coming in.
“The putter was great as well,” Pendrith said. “But if you can get it in the fairways here you can kind of attack.”
Finau rolled in a 19-foot birdie putt at the second, then didn’t find another birdie until the 10th, where he drained a 10-footer.
That and a par save at 11 jump-started his round. He birdied the 12th, 13th and 14th, then briefly grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie at 17, his bogey-free 66 giving him a 14-under total of 130.
American Lee Hodges was alone in third after a 66 for 132. Cameron Young, Russell Henley and Stewart Cink were tied for fourth on 134.
“Anytime you win, you breed confidence,” Finau said. “I was just happy to carry that confidence from last week right into this week.”
Pendrith, ranked 237th in the world, missed about 16 weeks after he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in a rib.
He’d optimistically hoped the injury would keep him off the course less than half that time, especially since he’d played well early in the year.
“To have to sit out for almost four months after that really sucked, but honestly, couldn’t really do much about it,” Pendrith said. “Just tried to stay patient and know that it’s going to heal and I’ll be back at some point.”
Meantime, two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson confirmed his move to Saudi-backed LIV Golf on Friday as marquee recruit Henrik Stenson snagged a share of the first-round lead on his debut.
Former world No. 2 Watson, currently ranked 86th, has been sidelined since May and said he won’t actually play on the fledgling circuit until next year as he continues to recover from surgery on his right knee.
“So I should be 100% in the next couple of months,” Watson said in an interview during the live stream of the first round of the LIV Golf Invitational at Trump National in Bedminster, New Jersey.
“I’m good now, it’s just now getting the leg to loosen up so I can hit the shots full-bore,” he said.
Although he claimed the most recent of his 12 US PGA Tour titles four years ago, Watson remains a fan favorite and is another former major winner to make the leap to the lucrative series that has roiled the golf world.
Sweden’s Stenson was stripped of the European Ryder Cup captaincy last week after confirming his defection to the LIV Golf series spearheaded by Greg Norman.
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