American Rickie Fowler shot an 8-under 64 Thursday for a one-shot lead over south Korean Sung Kang after the first round of the Houston Open.
The 28-year-old Fowler posted his best round in six appearances at the tournament, surpassing a previous low score of 68.
After The Honda Classic win last month, which ended a 13-month, 25-start victory drought, Fowler is warming up for the Masters next week.
Further, Fowler holds a three-shot lead over Vaughn Taylor and Keegan Bradley as he finished his round in the afternoon, then Kang narrowed the margin with his 65. The 29-year-old missed a putt from less than 5 feet to bogey No. 18. But, compared to last year’s final round at the Houston Open when he shot a 6-over 78, he said he is satisfied with the improvement.
Kang is on the 115 players list who need a win to qualify for Augusta National, as Jim Herman did by winning in Houston 2016. Also, among the 144 players playing the event, 29 already have invitations to play. It was supposed to be 30, expect FedExCup frontrunner Dustin Johnson who decided to take a break after winning the Dell Technologies Match Play for his third consecutive time.
Behind Fowler and Kang, Stewart Cink, Jhonattan Vegas, and Kyle Stanley all finished 6-under 66. While Jordan Spieth limped at times and shot 3-under 69. Herman shot 2-over 74, while 2015 Houston Open champion J.B. Holmes made 1-over 73.
Moreover, constant rains canceled out the pro-am event at the Golf Club of Houston on Wednesday. As the sun came up and dried the course later in the day, the greens began to play faster. Several players were troubled as they had to connect properly while avoiding the muddy waters but also not overplaying the speedy greens, which are grown so as imitate Augusta.