Hatton carries momentum to lead at CJ Cup


NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Tyrrell Hatton felt grumpy from not getting much sleep, and then he felt he was in a dream when he was 5 under through the opening five holes of the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek.

The reality of Thursday was that even coming off an emotional win at Wentworth and a long trip from London across eight time zones, Hatton hasn’t lost his touch. He tied the course record of 7-under 65 for a one-shot lead.

“It’s fair to say I’m pretty tired at the moment,” Hatton said. “Still struggling a little bit with jet lag. As you can tell by my voice, picked up a little bit of a sore throat on the way over. Today was a long day. Very happy with my score, and I just need to try and get back to the hotel, have a good rest and hopefully sleep better than I did last night.

“And fingers crossed for another good day.”

Hatton posted the lowest competitive round at Shadow Creek, mainly because this is the first PGA Tour event at the prestigious club. Dustin Johnson, not playing this week because of a positive test result for the coronavirus, had a 65 during a casual round in 2015.

Xander Schauffele birdied the par-5 18th for a 66 and was one shot behind, along with Russell Henley. Jon Rahm and Tyler Duncan were another shot behind.

Rory McIlroy bogeyed his last three holes, a streak that began with him missing a 3-foot par putt, for a 73.

Brooks Koepka, in his first tournament since taking two months off to heal an ailing left hip, showed plenty of signs of rust. He closed with a short iron into the water on the par-5 18th for a bogey and a 74.

It’s hard to imagine a better start than Hatton.

He holed a 10-foot birdie putt on his opening hole at No. 10. He laid up off the tee on the reachable par-4 11th with a 7-iron and still couldn’t hit the fairway, but managed to hit wedge to 3 feet for birdie. He holed out with a lob wedge on the next hole from 92 yards. And on the 14th, he ran in a 25-foot birdie.

“It was nice to have momentum early,” he said. “I imagine it would have been a lot tougher round if, being as tired as I was, we didn’t quite have that momentum.”

Hatton was among six players outside London last week for the BMW PGA Championship, which the Englishman won on the course where he watched as a young lad and was inspired to play golf. So there was emotion, and then a 20-hour trip door-to-door to Las Vegas for a tournament that moved this year from South Korea because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He did well on the eve of the tournament — a little more than five hours’ sleep, which got him to 5 a.m. It didn’t affect his golf as much as his mood.

“I was grumpy out there. I was quite agitated,” he said. “Even though I had a really good score going, I was just on edge. That’s generally quite a hard thing for me to manage. I wasn’t happy with how I managed myself after some poor shots, but I think this is easy. Everyone loses their cool when they’re tired and haven’t slept enough.”

Rahm’s biggest concern was the speed on his putting, with courses at home in Arizona overseeding and the greens running on the slow side. What made his round was holing three putts in a row around the turn — one of them for par — to feel more at ease on the slick greens of Shadow Creek.

The only mishap was reaching into his bag for a new glove and realizing they were the wrong size. He had to hustle back to a trash bin to retrieve the one he had been using until he could get a replacement at the turn.

No one had a tougher day than U.S. Open runner-up Matthew Wolff, who didn’t make a birdie in his round of 80.

Jordan Spieth salvaged what could have been a rough day. He was so wild off the tee at times that he hit provisional tee shots on three consecutive holes. He didn’t have to use any of them, birdied three straight around the turn to get to 1 under only to hit a fourth provisional — this one he needed — in making a triple bogey on the 14th. He shot a 74.

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