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Noh grabs lead despite broken driver head

WASHINGTON: South Korea’s Noh Seung-yul grabbed the clubhouse lead with an 11-under par 60 in Thursday’s (Friday in Manila) opening round of the PGA Byron Nelson tournament, matching the event’s 18-hole record.

NO PROBLEM Noh Seung-yul of South Korea looks at his club on the 14th tee during the first round of the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch on Thursday, May 11, 2023, in McKinney, Texas. PHOTO BY TIM HEITMAN/AFP

And he did it despite suffering a broken driver head on the 12th hole in his bogey-free round at TPC Craig Ranch in suburban Dallas.

“Everything was going amazing,” Noh said. “Off the tee, missed two drivers because the crack of the driver head. Except two shots off the tee, everything going perfectly.

“I’m really happy for my career low on the PGA Tour. One shot missed to 59, but I’m really happy with that.” Noh, the 2010 Asian Tour Order of Merit winner, captured his only PGA title at the 2014 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, three years before it shifted to its current pairs format.

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He had a three-shot lead over Australian Adam Scott and Chian’s Dou Zecheng.

Scott, the 2013 Masters champion, posted his best opening round on the PGA Tour since a 62 at the 2014 Arnold Palmer Invitational.

World number two Scottie Scheffler headlined a group on 64 that also included Aussie veteran Jason Day and Americans Luke List, Richy Werenski, Scott Piercy and Ryan Palmer.

Noh’s bogey-free round matched the Byron Nelson record shared by four other players and most recently achieved previously by Colombia’s Sebastian Muñoz in last year’s opening round.

The most recent prior 60 on tour was by American Patrick Cantlay in the third round of last October’s Shriners Children’s Open.

After a birdie at the 11th hole, Noh smashed his tee shot well to the right of a cart path at the par-4 12th, Noh checked his driver head.

“When I hit on 12, I’m swinging so nicely, but keep like 70 yards going right,” Noh said. “So I just look at the driver and it got the crack in it.” He salvaged par after dropping his approach within four feet of the hole, but rules officials said with just a crack he couldn’t replace the driver.

Noh sent his next tee shot way left of the 13th fairway and then took the club out of play before saving par again with a six-foot putt before obtaining a replacement driver head.

“I’m hitting one more driver on 13, and then finally it’s gone, my driver head,” Noh said. “That’s why after the 13th we got the replacement.” Noh, who said he had never suffered a cracked driver head before, went with a driver over a 3-wood at 13 despite the crack.

“I’m just trying to hit driver,” he said. “It’s just going like 50 yards left, but I still make the par, so I’m lucky with that.” After birdies at the par-4 14th and par-3 15th, Noh screwed a new driver head into place at the 16th hole, a repair allowed under golf rules.

Noh made a 27-foot par putt at the 16th, then sank a 34-foot birdie at the par-3 17th and a nine-foot birdie at the par-5 18th.

The 31-year-old opened with back-to-back birdies, did it again at the fifth and sixth holes and closed the front nine with an eagle at the par-5 ninth, reaching the green in two and sinking an eight-foot eagle putt.

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