Simpson leads the Military Tribute at The Greenbrier by one over South Korean Whee Kim with recently turned professional Joaquin Neimann another shot back in 3rd place alone.
Simpson has a played this event well on occasions with three top tens in seven starts including a best of 3rd in 2014 and his recent form has been impressive enough including his magnificent win at the Players Championship.
There was however a lot to like about Simpson’s chances this week and although there is a long way to go he has made a near perfect start.
Simpson was on ‘59 watch’ after chipping in for eagle at the 12th to move to 7 under on the par 70 layout. A birdie at the 16th from 8 or so feet kept those hopes alive but he was unable to birdie the par 5 17th and then parred the last for a great round but there might have been just a touch of disappointment given the possibility that had opened up.
Simpson had reason to have mixed emotions and expressed as much after his round.
“Well, we didn't speak about it,” said Simpson. “Because 17 is a pretty wide fairway, so I'm just trying to hit it in the fairway, lay it up, and have a good wedge number I'll assume my wedge is good. So it was kind of a bummer to end the round that way after having a chance. But overall, great, solid day.”
Kim was also a late finisher today and although yet to win on the PGA Tour he has been twice runner-up and recently won an event in his homeland on the Korean PGA Tour.
Niemann has impressed in his three months as a professional, recording three top tens already since turning to the paid ranks after the Masters. He has special temporary membership on the PGA tour which means he can accept as many invited as he is offered between now and the end of the year appears likely to gain full PGA Tour status for 2019 if not before.
"It's been nice after I played The Masters and I just improved," said the Chilean. "The week after that I played in San Antonio, and, yeah, I've been playing really good golf.
"Also, I've been enjoying this really much. Being out here on the PGA TOUR with these guys are really good at golf. So it's been good. Also, I have enjoyed it really much."
Cameron Percy and Danny Lee are the leading Australasians after day one, Lee the winner of this event in 2015 and continuing some encouraging signs in recent months.
Steven Bowditch is the next best of the Australasians and while his round of even par 70 was hardly earthshattering, compared to what his most recent form has been it was improvement. Bowditch finished runner-up in this event in 2013 and the return to the scene of previous success has clearly aided that better play.
Bowditch has made just two cuts in his last 36 starts so while he still has work to do to make the weekend this week he has not shot himself in the foot in round one. A last round of 68 at his previous event in Dallas suggests, maybe, just maybe that the immensely talented Bowditch is slowly getting things back on track.
THE UNIQUE SWING OF DUSTIN JOHNSON
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