It was opening day for the PGA Tour, and the first round of the 2024 PGA Tour season brought plenty of fireworks from the best players Thursday at Kapalua. In the end, there was a bit of a surprise leader but he’s closely followed by a handful of major champions, including one who ended 2023 playing some of his best golf in a long time.
It was refreshing to focus on golf for the first time in a while. Following the drama of December when Jon Rahm (who is apparently in Maui this week, although not to play golf), all the talk of late has been about when the two entities are going to officially merge. As you can imagine, that gets … tiring. And it was nice to just watch Viktor Hovland do Viktor Hovland stuff, Scottie Scheffler do Scottie Scheffler stuff and, of course, Jordan Spieth do Jordan Spieth stuff.
It was actually Sahith Theegala who outpaced them all on Thursday, though, as he dropped a 64 on the field that included six consecutive birdies to start his second nine and 10 overall on his day.
Let’s take a look at what went down in Round 1.
1. Sahith Theegala (-9): Theegala swiped this lead late in the day from a huge group at 8 under, and he did it with some Spieth-like play. His 10 birdies happened on only seven fairways hit, and he had a bad bogey at the par-4 16th hole where he hit the lip of a fairway bunker on his approach. There were certain windows of his round where, if you caught them, you would have said, “Wait, this guy is leading?”
He is indeed leading, and man, he’s somebody who can get on an absolute scorcher. I’m not sure there are five more exciting players in the world to watch than Theegala. He’s a great character, a great scorer and now in position to win the biggest tournament of his career. The problem? There are some horses coming for him just down the leaderboard.
T2. Camilo Villegas, Collin Morikawa, Sungjae Im, Jason Day, Viktor Hovland (-8)
T7. Xander Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Emiliano Grillo, Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler (-7)
Morikawa was flawless in the first round. This is emblematic of his history at Kapalua where he has finishes of T7, T7, T5, 2nd and is now one back of the lead. He is a total menace at this course and has never shot over par in five appearances.
He has something extra to play for, too. He kicked away a lead last year when Rahm ran him down with a 63 in the finale, and a win this week would reestablish Morikawa as one of the dominant forces in the game at the start of a new season.
He said after his round that his misses are tighter and because of this he can play more confident golf. It also helps that this course, because it gathers drives in similar spots, puts an emphasis on iron play.
“I’ve had the belief that I can do it and I’ve had the belief that I can play well, but you’ve got to be able to put together four solid rounds,” said Morikawa, a six-time PGA Tour winner. “Part of it is just knowing where the golf ball’s going to go. Stats-wise it said my ball striking was fine, it’s not like I dropped off the roof, but the misses were worse. If you know where you’re going to miss it, that’s the biggest thing. Best players out here in the world that are winning and contending every week, they know where they’re going to miss it. They hit maybe a little bit more quality of golf shots, but slowly I’m learning where the ball’s going to go, that’s the biggest thing.”
He certainly knew where it was going Thursday, which has become a pattern at this golf course. If that continues the rest of the week, he’s going to be staring at win No. 7 on Sunday evening.
Tom Hoge is a fascinating name at T12 after shooting a 67. He finished T3 here last year and T3 at the Players but struggled for most of the rest of the year. Hoge really took advantage of all the short iron shots Kapalua can provide, and shot 67 despite an OB ball off the tee on the 14th hole. If he drives it average at all the rest of the week, he’s an interesting look at a pretty long number (around 100-1 even after a great first round).
Patrick Cantlay is a problem
Cantlay is obviously incredible at golf, but this year has the feel of something special for the eight-time winner on the PGA Tour. He spoke recently about the desire to win a lot more in 2024, and he’s playing the kind of golf one needs to play to win three or four times in a season. Since the beginning of 2023, there are only three golfers who have played better golf than Cantlay: Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm. They won a combined nine times last year while Cantlay did not win at all. That seems likely to change in 2024.
Shot of the day
Max Homa nearly made an ace on the par-3 8th hole and went on to shoot 6-under 67 to get himself into contention after the first round.
How did Scheffler putt?
Better! He hit it like the ball-striking menace that he is, and he gained strokes on the field with the putter despite a few questionable strokes and a long three-putt at the last that included a lip-out. If he’s positive strokes gained putting the rest of the way, he’s going to be in the top three at the end of the week.
2024 The Sentry updated odds and picks
- Scottie Scheffler: 9/2
- Viktor Hovland: 5-1
- Collin Morikawa: 13/2
- Patrick Cantlay: 10-1
- Xander Schauffele: 10-1
- Sahith Theegala: 12-1
- Sungjae Im: 14-1
- Jordan Spieth: 16-1
- Max Homa: 16-1
We didn’t talk about Spieth but he, of course, started with a double bogey before ripping off nine birdies of his own the rest of the way. I don’t love him at 16-1, but I do love Sungjae Im at slightly shorter odds as well as Morikawa — my pre-tournament pick — at 13/2.