This year's Shriners Hospitals for Children Open field is full of well-known names like Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker and Presidents Cup partners Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell, but it was one of the lesser known players who grabbed the solo lead in a first round suspended late Thursday by darkness.
South Korea's Whee Kim carded a bogey-free, six-under 65 in Las Vegas at TPC Summerlin, giving him a one-shot edge on a host of players sitting at five under.
High winds became much more difficult to deal with in the afternoon on Thursday, but thanks to an early tee time, Kim posted his round early in the day, and the score held up, at least until a few players finish off their first rounds early Friday morning.
"I think I played pretty decent," Kim said. "It was pretty calm in the morning, for the first nine holes, and as soon as I finished my 12th hole the wind picked up and it was a little tougher."
Despite the conditions late in his round, he was able to finish strong on his final six holes, picking up two birdies and scrambling for par at the difficult, 239-yard par-3 eighth (his 17th). Kim's 65 comes on the heels of his third-best finish on the PGA Tour at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges in his home country, where he came in solo fourth.
Five players are one back at five under, including Jimmy Stanger, the former University of Virginia All-American who is making just his third appearance on the PGA Tour. Stanger's round began on the back nine, where he opened with a birdie at the par-4 10th, an eagle-two at the par-4 15th followed by back-to-back birdies at the 16th and 17th. After seven straight pars, his opening round was cut short. He'll have three holes left to play early Friday morning and a chance to grab a share of the lead. Stanger is currently tied with J.J. Spaun, Alex Cejka, Ryan Blaum and John Huh, all of whom completed their first rounds.
A large group is within two shots at four under, including Chappell, Billy Horschel, Bryson Dechambeau, Patrick Cantlay and Peter Malnati. Malnati, who became the first PGA Tour player to speak out on national anthem protests earlier this fall, carded the only bogey-free 67 of the bunch.
After struggles in 2017, Watson entered the Shriners with a new ball and a new mindset, but couldn't get much going on Thursday, posting a one-over 72 that has him seven shots off the lead.