(Reuters) - American J.J. Henry took advantage of soft greens and near-perfect scoring conditions to fire a sizzling 11-under-par 60 in Thursday’s opening round of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas.
With barely a breath of wind in the high Nevada desert, Henry sank two lengthy putts to finish birdie-eagle for a course record at the TPC Summerlin and seize a one-shot lead over Argentina’s Andres Romero, who recorded two eagles.
Americans James Driscoll, Jonathan Byrd and Jeff Overton opened with 63s while former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson carded a 64 as more than half the field dipped under par at a PGA Tour event known for low scoring.
Henry, however, commanded the spotlight in the second event of the PGA Tour’s 2013-14 season as he scorched his back nine in seven-under 28 after starting the round at the par-four 10th.
Having reached the turn in four under, he birdied the second, fourth, fifth, sixth and par-three eighth, where he rolled in a 20-footer, to get to nine under for the round.
He then signed off in style, draining a 55-foot putt for eagle from just off the green at the ninth before raising his putter high in celebration.
”It was just kind of one of those days,“ Henry, a double winner on the PGA Tour who is playing in Las Vegas for the first time since 2009, told Golf Channel. ”The golf course was beautiful today - not much wind and the greens were pretty soft.
“It was nice to make that putt on my last hole for a little eagle and make lunch taste that much better.”
Henry had set up the eagle putt by hitting a good drive followed by a hybrid club for his second shot which ended up just off the back left of the green.
“You are never really trying to make a 55, 60-foot putt but just trying to get it up there somewhere close and kick it in,” said the 38-year-old, whose most recent PGA Tour victory came at the 2012 Reno-Tahoe Open.
“And sure enough it kind of just rolled right over the front edge of the hole. You know you have to shoot low at this tournament and get off to a good start like that. Hopefully I’ll continue the momentum for the next three days.”
Henry totalled only 24 putts and hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation as he completed a bogey-free display of top quality golf.
American world number 11 Zach Johnson, the highest-ranked player in the 132-man field, opened with a 69, as did defending champion Ryan Moore.
Fiji’s former world number one Vijay Singh carded a 67 while double major winner Angel Cabrera of Argentina returned a 73.
Exciting Japanese talent Hideki Matsuyama, who would have been one of the biggest drawcards at the event, withdrew before teeing off in the opening round due to an unspecified illness.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Julian Linden