Hahn, Barnes out front in Texas
Brooks Koepka leaned in for a closer look at his ball buried in deep rough when a critter he couldn’t identify caused him to jump back with a bit of a startled look.
His best guesses were a frog or rat, though he was too disoriented to be sure. It definitely wasn’t a birdie, because Koepka was on his way to finishing with two bogeys in a row after sharing the lead late in his opening round of the AT&T Byron Nelson on Thursday.
A year after losing to Sergio Garcia in a playoff at TPC Four Seasons, Koepka settled for a 3-under-par 67 and trailed coleaders James Hahn and Ricky Barnes by three shots.
“It jumped out, and I didn’t know what was going on, freaked me out,” said Koepka, who needed help from a bevy of tournament volunteers and fans to find his ball while hitting two shots out of the thick grass and just missing a chip that would have saved par on the ninth hole, his last.
“I was so in amazement of what just happened, whether it jumped out, scared me. I couldn’t see it because it ran underneath the grass again.”
Matt Kuchar, Jhonattan Vegas, Jason Kokrak and Cameron Tringale shot 66, and top-ranked Dustin Johnson topped the group at 67, a stroke ahead of fourth-ranked Jason Day and Jordan Spieth, the No. 6 player competing in his hometown event.
Masters and defending Nelson champion Garcia, ranked fifth, had three bogeys on the front nine and just one birdie in a 73 that left him tied for 93rd.
The event is the last at TPC Four Seasons, ending the tournament’s 35-year run in Irving. The tournament will move to the new links-style Trinity Forest Golf Club south of downtown Dallas next year.
Tringale was the only player with a lower score than Johnson in a blustery afternoon round, while Hahn and Barnes played in slightly calmer conditions in the morning.
“It was blowing hard and it was gusty,” said Johnson, who has four top-10 finishes in seven previous Nelsons. “I thought it was very difficult to judge the wind and control the ball.
“Felt like there were a lot of times I hit really good shots that didn’t end up in good spots.”
Using a mallet putter instead of his traditional blade, Spieth made a 10-footer for his second consecutive birdie on his 17th hole, the par-4 eighth. Normally one of the best putters on tour, the Dallas native was frustrated with that part of his game after missing the cut in The Players Championship last week.
“It’s nothing crazy new,” Spieth said. “It helps me line up a bit better, and that’s kind of been my struggle is lining the putter up where I want to.”
James Hahn had six birdies in the first round of the Byron Nelson on Thursday. RAY CARLIN, USA TODAY SPORTS