Nassau - When it comes to major breakthroughs, J.B. Holmes
and Hideki Matsuyama hope they can follow the path of Jordan Spieth, who used
momentum from a 2014 Hero World Challenge title to win two majors in 2015.
Holmes fired an eight-under 64 to seize a one-stroke lead
over Maruyama after Thursday's first round of the 18-man Bahamas invitational
event hosted by Tiger Woods, who made his return after a 16-month layoff with a
Spieth won the 2014 Australian Open, then took the Challenge
crown and a 2015 PGA event in Florida, momentum that carried into victories at
the 2015 Masters and US Open for his first major titles.
Matsuyama and Holmes would not mind similar success at the
Challenge this week and the momentum carryover in the majors next year.
Holmes is coming off a 2016 season that saw him finish
fourth at the Masters and third at the British Opens, the best major results of
his career, and enjoy six top-six efforts in all. But he hasn't won since the
2015 Houston Open.
"I've had two great years, probably the best of my
career," Holmes said. "Hopefully I can keep building on that and
progress on. I look forward to this season and hopefully a win or two."
Matsuyama achieved his best major finish with a share of
fourth at this year's PGA Championship, his fifth top-10 major effort, and is
coming off a victory at the World Golf Championships HSBC Champions event in
"I have a lot to work on in order to win a major, but
number one is probably putting," Matsuyama said. "All I can do now is
just work on my stroke and hopefully that will see me through."
Matsuyama found his way Thursday with birdies on six of the
last 10 holes following a double bogey at the eighth that wiped out his birdies
on two of the first three holes.
"Front nine I didn't play real well, but back nine I
started making some putts," Matsuyama said. "I'm happy with the
Holmes opened with his lone bogey of the round, birdied the
par-5 third and sixth then reeled off three birdies in a row starting at the
par-3 eighth and added an eagle at the par-5 11th.
"I hit a really good drive and then I hammered a 3-wood
and got it on the green," Holmes said. "I was just trying to get it
down there to two putt and I made a long putt for eagle. It was definitely a
Holmes said the wind died down allowing him to make a
"This course's defences is the wind and when it goes
away you can definitely shoot a good number," he said.
"It was a great day for me. Putted well, hit my irons
well and my driver well. It was not necessarily an easy 64, but it was
stress-free because I hit a lot of good shots."
Reigning US Open champion Dustin Johnson of the United
States was third on 66 with British Open winner Henrik Stenson of Sweden, South
Africa's Louis Oosthuizen and American Matt Kuchar on 67.
"I'll take 5-under four times. That works,"
Stenson said. "I don't feel like I deserved a better score, but it could
have been better. I felt like I kept it together nicely."
Scores after the first round of the Hero World Challenge, an
18-player inivtational event at par-72 Albany Golf Club (USA unless
64 - J.B. Holmes
65 - Hideki Matsuyama (JPN)
66 - Dustin Johnson
67 - Henrik Stenson (SWE), Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA)
68 - Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth
69 - Russell Knox (SCO)
70 - Jimmy Walker, Emiliano Grillo (ARG)
72 - Bubba Watson, Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, Brooks Kopeka
73 - Tiger Woods
74 - Justin Rose (ENG)