PGA Tour rookie posts opening round 62
Alabama native Lee Hodges shattered his personal-best PGA Tour score by three shots Thursday in the first round of the American Express, and put himself in contention for a breakthrough victory in his first season on the big tour.
Lee Hodges, an Ardmore High School graduate who played collegiately at Alabama-Birmingham and the University of Alabama, fired a bogey-free 10-under 62 at PGA West. His previous best score on the PGA Tour was a 65.
Hodges was tied for the lead with tour veteran Patrick Cantlay, who also shot 62. Ten other players shot 65 as the California desert courses were once again subject to perfect playing conditions and low scoring.
The tournament will be cut after 54 holes on Saturday.
His round included an eagle, eight birdies and 10 pars. The recently married Hodges was coming off a missed cut last week at the Sony Open in Hawaii before turning things around in a big way Thursday.
“I played nice today, really puted well,” he said. “Kind of changed a little mindset I guess going into today, I guess I was – it’s tough being on the PGA Tour, sometimes it’s rocky, you know, you expect a lot and get a little sometimes.”
Lee Hodges: In his first PGA Tour season
Hodges, a tour rookie, earned his card by virtue of his finish on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2021. He’s played in seven events and has made five cuts. His best finish was a tie for 27th in the Shriners Children’s Hospital event in October.
Hodges said he took an approach to just have fun in his first round at the American Express.
“I just really tried to go out and have a good time and enjoy myself and know how blessed I am to be out here,” he said. “I was playing great last week, leading up to last week in Hawaii I was playing some of my best golf I played in a long time. And then just kind of didn’t play well in the tournament.”
The missed cut at the Sony didn’t deter the Alabama native coming into this week.
“You can say what you want, but I knew that my game was there to play really well, so I just got to try to change a little bit of my attitude,” he said. “I think that was a big help.”
Hodges started on the back nine in his first round and made three birdies to turn in 33. When he got to the front nine, Hodges kicked it into high gear. He was 4-under before starting a stretch of four holes in which he went birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie to get to 9-under. He closed the round with a last-hole birdie.
Hodges said he was somewhat familiar with the tournament venue, La Quinta, having played it three times previously.
“It’s one of my favorite golf courses I’ve ever played, to be honest. I played it I guess three times now and it’s spectacular,” he said.
“It’s like hitting off of mats half the time. It’s just in perfect shape. You get rewarded for good shots out here which I like that. Good golf gets rewarded.”
Hodges, who turned professional in 2018, said moving up to the PGA Tour from the Korn Ferry Tour has been an adjustment.
“It’s hard sometimes. Just learning all the new golf courses, learning how to travel out here, because compared to what we had been doing on the Korn Ferry, it’s tough sometimes,” he said. “But we’re learning. We’re all learning at different speeds and hopefully I can [learn] faster than maybe some others.”
Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News
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Featured image courtesy of PGA Tour
[A previous version of this story misidentified the tournament venue.]