Maybe the warm Las Vegas climate will force people to focus on Tyrrell Hatton’s golf game instead of his attire this week.
Hatton recorded the signature victory of his career last week, winning the prestigious BMW PGA Championship in England, but golf purists weren’t happy he did it while playing in hoodies.
And despite crossing eight time zones to get to Las Vegas this week, there was no cooling off Hatton’s game. He opened with a 7-under 65 on Thursday to lead the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek Golf Course.
Xander Schauffele and Russell Henley are one shot back, and Jon Rahm and Tyler Duncan are two behind.
Starting on the back nine, Hatton came out firing. He played his first five holes in 5 under, including a hole-out for eagle from 92 yards on the par-4 12th.
“It was nice to have momentum early,” Hatton said. “I imagine it would have been a lot tougher round if being as tired as I was we didn’t quite have that momentum.”
It was a remarkable round, considering he birdied just one of the four par-5s. But he took advantage of superb putting on greens he called “absolutely perfect.”
“It’s easy to give them almost a little bit too much respect because like downhill, they’re rapid,” he said. “You could almost blow on it and they’re going past the hole.”
Hatton also benefited from playing in the same group with Rahm as the Europeans rode each other’s momentum.
“I played really solid out there,” said Rahm, who had never seen Shadow Creek before Tuesday. “I played really strong off the tee.”
Schauffele was happy with his first competitive round since the U.S. Open a month ago, though not with the 5-hour, 45-minute pace of play.
“I didn’t feel too rusty,” he said. “A few chips and a few moments out here I did, a couple of mental mistakes, but I’m definitely happy with 6 under.”
Like Hatton, Henley’s round was sparked by an eagle on his front nine when he hit a shot 216 yards from the left rough over water to 10 feet on No. 18. But he was more excited about a 20-footer for birdie on his first hole.
“I really hit a nice putt on the first hole,” said Henley, looking for his first win in more than three years. “That’s something I’ve been working on hard is left-to-right putts. I’ve struggled with those, and to see one of those go in gave me a lot of confidence.”
Duncan also got his round moving with an eagle on No. 7, and it was almost one better.
“We had 253 to the front, so I just tried to get it up there around the green somewhere left of the hole and get it up and down,” he said. “I hit it right at it, and everyone around it said it hit the pin.”
Hatton’s goal after the round was to get back to his hotel, have dinner and get some sleep. His trip from his house outside London to his Las Vegas hotel room took 20 hours.
“I was grumpy out there today. I was quite agitated,” Hatton said. “Even though I had a really good score going, I was just on edge. That’s generally quite a hard thing for me to manage.”
It didn’t help that Hatton was still dealing with some fallout from “Hoodie-gate” from the British press.
“It’s crazy the amount of people that obviously don’t agree with it,” he said. “If it looks smart and you’re comfortable to play in it, then I really don’t see what the issue is.”
It won’t be an issue this week, with temperatures in the low 90s expected through the weekend. And with the hoodie talk behind him and a little sleep Thursday night, Hatton hopes to be back to his normal self for the second round.
“Hopefully I’ll have a bit more energy out there tomorrow,” he said.
Several prominent names struggled with Shadow Creek. Rory McIlroy bogeyed his final three holes for a 73, and Brooks Koepka (74), Jordan Spieth (74), Justin Rose (74) and Tommy Fleetwood (77) dug themselves an early hole.
The biggest surprise was Matthew Wolff, coming off a second-place finish at the U.S. Open and a playoff loss last week at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin. Wolff was out of sorts from the outset, making no birdies, six bogeys and one double-bogey that added up to an 80.
Greg Robertson is a freelance reporter who covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.