LAS VEGAS — Tom Hoge wanted to be sure to take advantage of pristine conditions Thursday morning in Las Vegas. He did more than he expected, making two eagles on his way to an 8-under 63 for a one-shot lead in the Shriners Children’s Open.
One of the eagles came with a gap wedge in his hand, part of a six-hole stretch he played in 6-under par in the middle of his round at the TPC Summerlin.
The other eagle was a 35-foot putt down the hill on the par-5 16th. Equally important, Hoge kept bogeys off his card.
Presidents Cup partners Si Woo Kim and Tom Kim ganged up on Max Homa in a group that brought back memories and stories from Quail Hollow two weeks ago. Si Woo Kim had a 64 and was tied for second with Maverick McNealy, while Tom Kim had a 65 and Homa didn’t fare too badly with a 67.
Homa went 4-0 in his Presidents Cup debut, beating Tom Kim in singles. But it was Tom Kim who delivered the best moment when he made a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole, slamming his cap to the ground to celebrate a win with Si Woo Kim as his partner.
“We still talk about the Presidents Cup, like some holes,” Si Woo Kim said. “Then I finish the hole, and Tom came over on 18 and I said, ‘If you make that one, I got to ask you to go throw the hat like the last hole Saturday.'”
McNealy now lives in Las Vegas and had more support than usual for a Thursday morning, a gallery he figures will grow on the weekend if he keeps this up.
Defending champion Sungjae Im joined Tom Kim in the large group at 65, particularly impressive because he played in the afternoon when low scores were harder to find.
Patrick Cantlay, who has a win and two runner-up finishes in his four appearances at the TPC Summerlin, had a steady diet of birdie chances from the 15- to 20-foot range and had to settle for a 67.
The low round for Hoge was unexpected because he had been fishing off the coast of Mexico the last two weeks, wanting to put the golf clubs away after a long season. He was in the mix for a Presidents Cup pick, though the oversight was not a surprise because he hadn’t played well enough since his inaugural PGA Tour victory at Pebble Beach in early February.
“I didn’t know where things would stand coming out today,” Hoge said.
He holed a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 6, then hit a gap wedge from 110 yards on No. 7 that hit the middle of the pin and crashed into the left side of the cup for eagle.
He followed with three more birdies over the next four holes, and then picked up a bonus with fast eagle putt on the 16th.
“It was an interesting day,” Hoge said. “I feel like I missed some very makeable birdie putts, but I holed some real nice, long ones for eagle on 16 and some other long ones. Certainly happy with the score, but I’ve got to make a lot of birdies the next few days.”