Déjà vu: Landry, Spaun share Quicken Loans National lead

Tiger Woods used his new mallet putter in the first round of the Quicken Loans National. Photo credit: Chris Pohl/DYSTGolf.com

Potomac, MD — Andrew Landry has had a few tournaments to forget since winning his first PGA TOUR event, the Valero Texas Open, after one round of play at Quicken Loans National, both he and J.J. Spaun lead a pair of golfers by one shot.

 

Quicken Loans National Coverage Sponsored by The TriState PGA.

“I’ve just been struggling a little bit and haven’t really been making the best swings that I can possibly make at it,” Landry said. “You know, been working the last few days on doing something a little bit different in my golf swing and getting a little bit further away from it and it’s kind of making my plane a little bit flatter, which is what I need. It’s definitely helping out.”

Spaun joined Landry atop the leaderboard and both fired bogey-free 7-under par rounds of 63 which is a record for Quicken Loans National play at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, besting last year’s mark of 64 which came from Nick Watney in the final round. It also is his third solo sub-70 round since the Valero Texas Open win in April. The tournament record is a 61 set by Troy Merritt in 2015 and the course record is also a 61, with this one coming from Charles Howell III at the 2004 Booz Allen Classic.

This is the second time these two have shared a first-round lead with the pair also co-leading at the Sanderson Farms Championship in October.

For Spaun, the successful round came from avoiding big mistakes as the greens he did miss were close in proximity to the green, allowing him to clean up.

“I was making a lot of good putts from mid range that I normally haven’t been making,” he said. “I felt a lot more comfortable over my putter as of late and it’s kind of nice to hit a lot of greens, hit a lot of fairways and see some more putts go in and that’s kind of what has been keeping me from going really low. So I feel like that’s kind of what happened today and ready to kind of keep the momentum going into tomorrow.”

It was much of the same from Landry who admitted that despite how cliche it sounded, that he took everything one shot at a time.

“You’ve just got to stay in the present and just keep on hitting the golf shots and trying your hardest to do — make pars when pars are needed, and when you get a scoring opportunity, go for it,” said Landry. “That’s what happened today and whenever I had scoring clubs in my hand, I definitely capitalized.”

By all accounts, TPC Potomac is playing easier than last year given the weather, in fact the first-round scoring average was 69.992, which is significantly lower than the 71.458 score which compiled the 2017 Quicken Loans National.

“I think it helps out with just putting yourself in a better situation to go into the weekend,” Landry said. “You know, starting out on a golf course like this at 7-under and just getting out ahead, is definitely helpful.”

Landry’s patience was tested during the round, some of which was because of hole locations he was not happy with. On the difficult par-4 11th hole, with his round just beginning, he found the rough but managed to make birdie on a course where missing the fairway can be quite penalizing.

“I was very fortunate the loose tee ball that I had on 11 came to rest in a perfect lie and I had a perfect angle, just had to hit a cut 8-iron and ended up making birdie out of it,” said Landry. “Taking that momentum right there and just building from it and keeping it going definitely helped to start the day out.”

Spaun also had his biggest test of the day on the par-3 17th hole, hitting his tee shot into the back bunker. He attributed it to being half a club too much and then hit his second onto the green, 10 feet from the flag where he cleaned up for par.

“That was definitely probably the most stressful moment of the day, which, you know, unbelievable out here on this course,” Spaun said. “You feel like you have a lot of stressful moments, but that’s kind of how the day was, just kept the ball in front of me and didn’t make too many mistakes.”

It has been an interesting year for Spaun, as he had to withdraw from the Waste Management Phoenix Open and finally after playing through some pain, found out that the ulnar nerve in his right elbow is compressed, something which resembled cubital arm syndrome.

“It’s nice to kind of put that behind me and not really have to worry about it, and this tape is more for peace of
mind,” said Spaun. “I feel like having something there for maybe placebo effect kind of helps.”

Additionally, Spaun has switched several Scotty Cameron putters trying to find the right fit and here at TPC Potomac has settled for the similar style that Tiger Woods uses.

While most of the PGA TOUR has gone for distance and as much technology as possible, Spaun has stuck to his guns.

“I’ve always been pretty long and pretty straight,” he said. “I think out here straight is long, you know? I think if you started swinging out of your shoes or you start, you know, trying to mess with what you got going, if it works, then don’t break it. It’s definitely tempting to be out here and you have all the gadgets, you have TrackMan, you have the balls, you have the drivers. I would rather sacrifice 5 or 10 yards off the tee and have the command with the irons for the second shot and the wedges than to be a little bit longer.”

Tiger Woods is tied for 48th place after shooting an even-par round of 70. This is Woods’s sixth consecutive event in which he did not break par on Thursday.

“I shot about the score I should have shot today,” said Woods. “I didn’t really have anything going through the middle part of the round, just hanging in there, hanging in there. I hit some poor tee shots and didn’t really give myself a chance. When I did, I made a couple birdies, which is nice, but I have do a better job to give myself some more chances.”

This was the first round in which Woods went with the mallet putter a decision he made Wednesday night after putting some additional work in with it. He finished 92nd in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting at -1.198.

“I rolled it well today, I really did,” he said. “I hit a lot of good putts early that didn’t go in. I misread a couple on the back nine, but overall I hit a lot of good putts. It was nice to feel that and it was nice to feel the putter swing.”

Horschel lurking

In 2009, Billy Horschel was looking for an opportunity to compete in the PGA TOUR and Tiger Woods gave him that opportunity by playing in the then-AT&T National at Congressional Country Club.

“I owe a lot to him to get me out here and testing my ability against the players right out of college,” Horschel said. “So I’ll always support this event.”

Horschel hit 12-of-15 fairways and 17-of-18 greens for the first time in the last two seasons, which allowed him to fire a 6-under par 64.

A mental block held Horschel back from making the cut at last week’s Travelers Championship but still felt his game was in a good spot.

Now it seems as if he has put everything together.

“I feel like it’s been rounding into shape for a little while and it was just nice to finally come out and put 18 holes together,” said Horschel. “I put 10 holes, 14, 12. I haven’t put 18 holes together and it was nice to finally do that today. It’s sort of a mind thing to continue to be aggressive, continue to put the pedal down and to have the right thinking out there.”

Horschel recalled his 2014 FedEx Cup victory and could not help but compare his mindset and how he is working to get back into form.

It is his belief that how he approached this round certainly helped his cause.

“I sort of let my mind wander a little bit too much and worry too much and start trying to play too conservative instead of, you know, the old Billy, the Billy that won the FedExCup would go forward and drive harder to get to 6, 7, 8-under par,” he said. “It’s still not there, but it’s sort of a process of I haven’t shot a lot of low scores, so I would get under par early and then I would sort of back off a little bit, which is unlike me. I’ve never been that way, I’ve always been an aggressive guy. It sort of comes down to last year I hadn’t really struck the ball as well, so it’s a little bit of a belief in my ability that my swing’s better, I’m not going to hit the shots that I’ve seen the last year. It’s a big combination that goes into it, but really what it comes down to is just believing in my ability that I’m going to continue to hit the shots I want.”

Putnam also in the mix

Andrew Putnam finds himself in a tie for third place, a shot behind the co-leaders but seemed pleased with his iron play, especially since he scored as low as he did going 6-for-14 in the fairways hit.

“This whole year they’ve been really good,” he said. “I was fortunate to have a couple good lies on my second nine coming in so I could advance it. My first nine I had a couple bad lies, so overall I think it was pretty even and happy with how I hit my approach shots today.”

Putnam recently overcame a stretch in which he tied for 82nd at the Wells Fargo Championship and T42 at the AT&T Byron Nelson and came into the week with a top-20 finish at the Fort Worth Invitational and a solo second place at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

In his first 120 rounds on the PGA TOUR, Putnam had no scored of 64-or-better but in the nine rounds since, he has accomplished the feat four times.

After hitting his drive on the par-4 18th hole, he was able to make a par in what was his trickiest moment Thursday afternoon.

“I missed the fairway about by about two feet and my ball looked like it was in a hole,” said Putnam. “I tried my best to make contact with the ball and it came out about 60 or 70 yards and hit a great chip. That was probably my best shot of the day.”

Quicken Loans National leaderboard

T1. Andrew Landry -7

T1. J.J. Spaun -7

T3. Billy Horschel -6

T3. Andrew Putnam -6

T5. Abraham Ancer -5

T5. Beau Hossler -5

T7. Ryan Armour -4

T7. Joel Dahmen -4

T7. Seamus Power -4

T10. Zac Blair -3

T10. Ryan Blaum -3

T10. Brian Gay -3

T10. Stephan Jaeger -3

T10. Anirban Lahiri -3

T10. Marc Leishman -3

T10. Francesco Molinari -3

T10. Geoff Ogilvy -3

T10. C.T. Pan -3

T10. Sam Ryder -3

T10. Scott Stallings -3

19th hole

Just one first round leader or co-leader at the Quicken Loans National has won the event and that was K.J. Choi in 2007… As expected, the par-4 11th hole was the toughest on the round with a 4.292 score to par. The 11th hole was the hardest in all of the PGA TOUR last season… There were five bogey-free rounds Thursday which came from Landry, Spaun, Putnam, Joel Dahmen (66) and Seamus Power (66).

Featured photo credit: PGA TOUR Twitter

Author: Zac Weiss