Harry Hall no longer has reason to be disappointed with his recent putting. The PGA Tour rookie from England took only 22 putts, the last one an 8-foot birdie for an 8-under 62 that gave him an early four-shot lead in the Charles Schwab Challenge.
Hall’s first time playing Colonial was a dream start — eight birdies along with par saves of 15 feet and 30 feet.
Tom Hoge, who played his college golf at TCU and now makes Fort Worth his home, holed out for eagle from the seventh fairway on his way to a 66.
Scottie Scheffler, who returned to No. 1 in the world with his tie for second at the PGA Championship, and defending champion Sam Burns were in the large group at 67 among early starters. Burn beat Scheffler in a playoff last year with a 45-foot putt.
Jordan Spieth didn’t make his lone birdie until the eighth hole and opened with a 72.
Michael Block, the club pro from California who starred at Oak Hill last week when he made a hole-in-one and two big par putts over the last four holes to tie for 15th in the PGA Championship, played in the afternoon.
Block signed with a management company WME Sports and has been making the media rounds. He opened his round with three straight bogeys.
Hall played his college golf at UNLV and is No. 99 in the FedEx Cup, a reasonable rookie season that features a pair of top 10s in Puerto Rico and the Mexico Open.
He changed up his routine this week by playing 36 holes of practice at Colonial — a Monday pro-am and then nine holes on Tuesday and Wednesday. That helps, along with his putter.
“Maybe that’s the key, just to see a bit more of the course than I have done in the past,” Hall said. “I didn’t do too much different. I kind of just made things a little bit more simple.”
He kept it simple at the start, two-putting for birdie on the par-5 opening hole and then making a 10-foot birdie putt. That doesn’t mean it was always easy. Hall made a 15-footer for par on the next hole and then twice got up-and-down to save pars.
He missed seven greens and played those holes in 1 under, the biggest a chip-in for birdie from about 80 feet on the 12th hole that put him at 7 under with six holes to play. He made only one birdie the rest of the way, but his longest putt he made was 30 feet for par on the 15th.
“I was really in the moment out there and determined to play some good golf,” Hall said. “The 7 out of 7 scrambles doesn’t really surprise me because that’s the best part of my game, but the way I hit the ball the first two-thirds of that round was pretty special.”
Hoge, who was raised in North Dakota, is so passionate about his Horned Frogs that he flew from Maui to Los Angeles to watch TCU in the college football champions game (a blowout loss to Georgia) and then flew back to Hawaii for the Sony Open.
He got off to a decent start until his round stalled. It came to life on No. 6 when his approach settled inches away from the cup. And then on the seventh, he hit 8-iron from 157 yards straight into the cup for an eagle.
It’s just the start he needed after missing the cut at Colonial the last three times.
“The last few years, I really struggled on Thursday then kind of fought back on Friday to try to make the cut,” Hoge said. “It was certainly a focus this year to try to get off to a good start, try to be a little more patient and letting the round come to me. Making a few birdies off the bat was really nice.”
Scheffler wasn’t sure what to make of his round. He felt it could have been better than his 67, and there were times he felt it getting away from him. At the end, he figured anything under par never hurts at Colonial.
One example of how it could have gotten away from him came at the fifth. With the wind at his back, Scheffler thought driver was too much and so he opted to hit a fade with a 3-wood. That turned into more of a slice and was headed for the hazard. It rattled among the trees.
“Next thing I know, I saw the ball bounce out, and I actually had a shot from the middle of the fairway,” he said. “Massive break there. I ended up being able to take advantage of it and make birdie. It was definitely a shot or two swing, I would say, throughout the round.”
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