BLAINE, Minn. — Lee Hodges got off to a good start in his bid to make the FedEx Cup playoffs, shooting an 8-under 63 on Thursday for a one-stroke lead in the first round of the 3M Open.
Two-time major champion Justin Thomas, who’s trying to make both the playoffs and the U.S. Ryder Cup team, opened with a 69 in windier afternoon conditions at the TPC Twin Cities.
Kevin Streelman had the best of the afternoon rounds with a 64, matching Hideki Matsuyama, Brandt Snedeker and Tyler Duncan. Emiliano Grillo, Nick Hardy and Justin Suh were another shot back, and defending champion Tony Finau was one of nine players to shoot 66.
Hodges entered the week having missed the cut in three of his past four tournaments and 14 of 29 events this season. He’s 74th in the FedEx Cup standings; the top 70 will make the playoffs that begin in two weeks.
He got off to a hot start with back-to-back birdies.
“To see that wedge shot go to an inch on the first hole and then make that 40-footer on the second hole, I was like, ‘All right, here we go, might as well make a lot of birdies if we’re gonna make a couple,'” Hodges said.
Finau was 5 under through his first four holes but stalled from there.
“I didn’t miss a shot for the first seven holes really. That was a pretty hot start, it was a nice way to start my title defense this week and kind of calmed my nerves,” Finau said.
Along with winds topping 20 mph, players in the afternoon had to deal with a heat index of 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
“To get out early where we had a few holes where we didn’t have to deal with wind is pretty key and just take advantage of those holes,” said Suh, also part of the morning wave.
Matsuyama needed some heat-related attention after his round but tour officials said it was nothing serious.
“It got really hot out there on the back nine. I’ll relax this afternoon and hopefully get ready to play well again tomorrow,” Matsuyama said.
Playing for the sixth time after sternum surgery that sidelined him for nine months, the 42-year-old Snedeker was coming off four straight missed cuts. He had six birdies over eight holes around the turn.
“I knew it was going to be a little learning curve coming back, and took a little longer than I wanted to, but finally able to put a round together today,” Snedeker said. “It was coming, and it was nice to see some putts go in and kind of have an easy stress-free round where I hit the ball really well, didn’t do anything poorly all day.”
Thomas is No. 75 in the FedEx Cup standings. He was grouped with another struggling major champion, Gary Woodland (No. 90), who shot 72. Billy Horschel, who entered at No. 119, was among the group at 66.
Sepp Straka, coming off a tie for second in the British Open, rallied for an even-par 71.