Miami – England’s Tom Lewis made the most of his sponsor’s exemption into the PGA Tour Honda Classic on Thursday, firing a bogey-free four-under-par 66 to share the first-round lead with Harris English at wind-whipped PGA National.
“I’m enjoying this,” the 29-year-old Lewis said of the chilly, windy weather that proved the undoing of some more familiar names.
Lewis rolled in a nine-foot eagle putt at the par-five third and stuck his tee shot at the par-three seventh within two feet for birdie.
Another nine-foot birdie at the 18th capped a confidence-building round for a player whose fortunes have fluctuated since he made a splash as low amateur of the 2011 Open Championship.
He won the European Tour’s Portugal Masters in his third start after turning pro in 2011, but it would be seven years before he won his second European Tour title.
He earned limited PGA Tour status with victory in the Korn Ferry Tour Championship last year, but said he’s still struggling to put together a consistent schedule and has yet to make a cut in four US tour events this season.
“Things are always going to be up-and-down, no matter how good you’re playing,” Lewis said. “There’s always going to be something that’s going to hit you in the face and you’ve just got to find a way to get through it.
“I take a lot of belief from today, and hopefully great things will happen this week.”
English, also playing on a sponsor’s exemption, eagled the third – where he rolled in a 27-foot putt. His four birdies included a hole out from some 25 yards out at the 11th.
Two-time major champion Zach Johnson headed a group on three-under 67, and said the chilly winds suited him just fine.
“I grew up in it,” the Iowa native said of the cold, blustery weather. “I’m not going to say I’m licking my chops, that’s the furthest thing from my mind, but I don’t mind the grind.
“I’m a boring player in the sense that fairways and greens are a premium,” added Johnson, who had five birdies and two bogeys. “More than that, I think my trajectory control in winds like this kind of go hand in hand with spin control.”
Johnson was joined on 67 by England’s Lee Westwood and Americans Cameron Tringale, J.T. Poston and Brian Stuard.
It was a tough day for world No 3 Brooks Koepka, who carded a four-over 74 that included a triple-bogey seven at the par-four sixth – where he was in the water off the tee – and a double-bogey at the ninth.
US star Rickie Fowler carded a 76 and Norway’s Viktor Hovland, fresh off his first US PGA Tour title in Puerto Rico, signed for a 77.
Leading first-round scores on Thursday in the PGA Tour Honda
Classic at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (USA unless
66 – Tom Lewis (ENG), Harris English
67 – Zach Johnson, Cameron Tringale, JT Poston, Lee Westwood (ENG), Brian Stuard
68 – Wyndham Clark, Brendan Steele, Doc Redman
– Patrick Rodgers, Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Sam Burns, Cameron Percy
(AUS), Tim Wilkinson (NZL), Harold Varner, Lee Kyoung-hoon (KOR), Mark
Hubbard, Kevin Streelman, Daniel Berger, Shane Lowry (IRL), Jamie