Sunday, March 26, 2017

Saunders shoots 64, leads Genesis Open by 2

While fog delayed the opening round of the Genesis Open, eventually the skies parted and allowed Sam Saunders to vault to the top of the standings. Here’s how things look after the first day at Riviera Country Club, where Saunders leads by two shots:

Leaderboard: Sam Saunders (-7), Dustin Johnson (-5), Daniel Summerhays (-5), J.T. Poston (-5), Brett Stegmaier (-5), Cameron Percy (-5), Phil Mickelson (-4)

What it means: Once the fog burned up, several players were able to take advantage of relatively benign conditions at Riviera. Among them were Johnson, who is a perennial contender at this event but has yet to hoist the trophy, and Saunders, whose on-course performance may soon begin to outpace the famous pedigree for which he is largely known.

Round of the day: Saunders is the grandson of Arnold Palmer, but that fact didn’t come into play Thursday during a pristine, opening-round 64. Playing this season on only conditional status, he made it around Riviera without dropping a shot and carded four birdies in a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 11-17 as he looks to win for the first time on the PGA Tour.

Best of the rest: Johnson has finished T-4 or better five times at this event since 2010, including a playoff loss to James Hahn in 2015. He entered off a third-place showing at Pebble Beach and barely broke a sweat during an opening 66 that featured four back-nine birdies and a lone dropped shot on No. 4.

Biggest disappointment: Bubba Watson has won this event two of the last three years, but he’s unlikely to contend again this week after struggling during his opening round. Watson made three straight bogeys from Nos. 8-10 and was 2 over through 17 holes when play was suspended because of darkness, putting him nine shots off the early pace.

Main storyline heading into Friday: All eyes will be on Mother Nature. With the opening round set to resume at 7 a.m. PT, players will scramble to get in as much golf as possible before a storm hits the area that could bring as much as 5 inches of rain. It’s not a matter of whether the second round will bleed into Saturday, it’s whether it can get off the ground Friday at all.

Quote of the day: “It didn’t help the golf swing, but I did make two putts.” – Johnson, who was stung by a bee while standing on the first green.

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