Scotland’s Russell Knox fired a 30 on his front nine en route to a six-under 65 to seize a first round lead at the USPGA Tour’s Mayakoba Golf Classic on Thursday in Mexico.
Knox, who started on the 10th tee, birdied five of his final six holes on his opening nine then added two more birdies on his back nine to take a one stroke lead over three others. His only blemish was a bogey on the par-four second hole.
“Took me a few holes to kind of settle into my round, but when I did, I had six or seven very good holes,” Knox said. “I hit the ball well, drove it in the fairway, and with lift, clean and place, I could be fairly aggressive. Par was good today.”
Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, Emiliano Grillo of Argentina and American Tom Hoge were a stroke back at 66 in the final event of the PGA Tour’s 2020 season at the Playa del Carmen course.
Knox’s best previous showing at the Mayakoba was a runner-up four years ago after losing in a playoff. He is seeking his third PGA Tour win after victories at the 2015 WGC-HSBC Champions and the 2016 Travelers Championship. He also has two wins on the European Tour.
“I love the course. It sets up well for me. I mean, historically, my driving accuracy and iron play’s been my strength, so that’s kind of the key things that this course brings out in you,” he said.
Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka is six strokes back of Knox after shooting a 71.
Pre-tournament favourite and the only top 10 ranked player in the field, Justin Thomas, shot 72. Thomas, who has two wins in 2020, is coming off a fourth place finish at the Masters and has five straight top-15 finishes.
Another stroke behind is Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who is playing in his first event since testing positive for Covid-19 on November 11. Kiradech had three birdies but made a double bogey on the par-four third hole.