LOS ANGELES (AP) This is the starring role Sam Saunders prefers.
Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer who so famously kept his composure during a heartfelt eulogy of The King, rolled in birdie putts and kept a clean card at Riviera on Thursday for a 7-under 64 and an early two-shot lead in the Genesis Open.
Saunders called it his best round on the PGA Tour, and it was merely a coincidence that it came on the 50-year anniversary of Palmer defending his title at the Los Angeles Open at Rancho Municipal.
Dustin Johnson, who has a chance to go to No. 1 with a win this week, was at 66 along with Daniel Summerhays, Cameron Percy, J.T. Poston and Brett Stegmaier, while Phil Mickelson was among those at 67.
Many players were unable to finish because of a fog delay in the morning, and the bigger concern was a monster storm of rain and wind expected to arrive along the California coast later Thursday.
The morning was perfect for scoring once the fog lifted, and Saunders rarely had a round with so little stress. He only came close to making bogey twice, saving par with an 8-foot putt on the par-3 fourth hole and a 6-foot putt on the par-3 14th.
Saunders, with only conditional status this year, is playing on the first of what figures to be several sponsor exemptions. He missed the cut in La Quinta and Pebble Beach.
WOMEN’S AUSTRALIAN OPEN
ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) – Katherine Kirk shot an 8-under 65 at Royal Adelaide to take a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Women’s Australian Open.
The 34-year-old Australian player birdied four of the first five holes on the front nine and three of four in the middle of the back nine. She won the last of her two LPGA Tour titles in 2010.
Americans Marissa Steen and Jane Park, South Korea’s Chella Choi and Taiwan’s Min Lee shot 67.
Canada’s Brooke Henderson was four strokes behind after a 69. Michelle Wie, using a new putting grip and stance over the ball on the green, shot a 70, and top-ranked Lydia Ko had a 71.
No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn of Thailand, the LPGA’s player of the year and a five-time winner in 2016, had a 72, and defending champion Haru Nomura of Japan shot a 75, both in tougher afternoon conditions when the wind increased and the greens firmed up.