- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2018

POTOMAC, Md. — TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm was hailed as a difficult, punitive course and a good test of golf. On Thursday, it didn’t exactly play that way.

Andrew Landry and J.J. Spaun shot bogey-free, 7-under 63s and share the lead after one round of the Quicken Loans National. They lead Billy Horschel and Andrew Putnam by one stroke.

The majority of the low rounds were carded during the morning. Spaun was the major exception, as he was one of the last players to finish Thursday.

Meanwhile, the marquee names playing the event — tournament host Tiger Woods and world No. 8 Rickie Fowler — played in the afternoon and both had pedestrian days that led to even-par 70s.

For the leaders, capitalizing on the fair conditions and launching to the top of the leaderboard early was an ideal way to set themselves up the rest of the tournament.

“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 … it’s definitely helpful.”

“It’s nice for the confidence to get off to a good start, and to have some freedom to go out there tomorrow and try to back it up,” Spaun said. “You don’t really expect to back it up with another 7-under, but I think anything under par on this course is a great round.”

However, Thursday’s numbers are not necessarily an indication of what is to come. Last year, David Lingmerth opened the event with a 65 and four others shot 66 on Thursday, but the course toughened up the rest of the week and 7-under was the winning score.

One of the main difficult elements of TPC Potomac that had players talking was the tall, thick cut of rough. It apparently did not slow down Marc Leishman, one of Woods‘ playing partners.

“(The rough) penalizes you, except for Leish today. He hit three fairways and shoots 3 under,” Woods said. “That’s hard to do on this place. But I think that this is a golf course that rewards good ball-striking and I’ve got to hit the ball a little bit better.”

Woods had a double-bogey and no birdies on the front nine before sinking birdies on Nos. 14 and 16. But Woods didn’t agree that he got off to a slow start.

“I hit a lot of good shots starting out and I hit a lot of beautiful putts starting out. Nothing really went in,” he said. “And I started not hitting the ball very well in the middle part of the round, got it back towards the end, made a couple birdies. Overall it was a good day, but not the day I really wanted.”

Fowler similarly struggled to find scoring opportunities. Thanks to a laser-focused approach shot that left him a 3-foot putt, Fowler birdied No. 18 to pull himself up to even for the day. It was just his second birdie of the round.

Woods and Fowler will tee off in the morning half of the second round Friday. The top 70 on the leaderboard, including ties, will make the cut and play the weekend rounds.

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