Seung-yul “S.Y.” Noh of South Korea, the No. 536-ranked player in the world, flirted with history but happily signed for an 11-under 60 to take the early lead during the first round of the AT&T Byron Nelson on Thursday in McKinney, Texas.
Low numbers were there for the taking at TPC Craig Ranch — in fact, Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz opened the tournament with a 60 in 2022 — but Noh established a three-shot lead on the field after falling just shy of a 59.
Australian veteran Adam Scott and China’s Zecheng Dou shot 8-under 63 to form a tie for second. World No. 2 and Dallas-area native Scottie Scheffler eagled his final hole to shoot 7-under 64, tying for fourth with Jason Day of Australia, Luke List, Richy Werenski, Scott Piercy and Ryan Palmer.
Noh made an eagle and nine birdies to card the first 60 on the PGA Tour since Patrick Cantlay’s 60 at the Shriners Children’s Open last October.
The 31-year-old stepped to the tee at the par-5 18th hole needing an eagle for 59. Rather than go for the green in two shots, he laid back short of a water hazard and used a wedge for the third shot, which spun to within 9 feet of the hole. He settled for birdie.
“Except two shots off the tee through the green, everything going perfectly today,” Noh said. “Then I’m really happy for my career low on the PGA Tour.”
Those two shots off the tee were far from perfect because Noh actually cracked his driver head on the 12th hole. He saved par, but the damage became worse after he tried to use it again at the 13th tee, and a rules official allowed Noh to get a replacement mid-round.
Noh holed 181 feet and 7 inches worth of putts, according to Golf Digest. The highlights included a 40-foot birdie at No. 11, a 27-foot par save at the par-4 16th and a 34-footer for birdie at the par-3 17th.
Noh said he had “no idea” why his putter was magic on Thursday.
“After making 16 long par putt, I talked to (playing partner) James Hahn,” Noh said. “I said, ‘What’s going on, what happened today?’ He said, ‘Just don’t think about it, just go play.’ No idea, just go make everything today.”
Noh has won once on the PGA Tour — the 2014 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, before that tournament was converted into a team event. He took two years off from his career to complete mandatory military service in South Korea. Though he returned in 2019, his game has wavered; he was outside the top 1,000 in the world rankings for much of last year.
If Noh should win the Byron Nelson, he would earn the final spot in the field at next week’s PGA Championship, the second major of the season.
Dou recovered from an opening bogey by making nine birdies the rest of the way. Scott started his round on the back nine and posted a 5-under 30 en route to his 63.
“It’s probably the best I’ve driven it in forever,” Scott said. “That was a nice way to start every hole. Took advantage of that nicely, certainly out of the gates on some of the long par-4s, birdieing three of the first four holes on that side is a nice way to start.”
The home-crowd favorite was Scheffler, the highest-ranked player in the field by a wide margin. He was 6 under through six holes after a pitch-in eagle 2 from just off the green at No. 6.
Scheffler stalled in the middle of his round with a stretch of three bogeys and four pars, but after snapping out of that funk with consecutive birdies at Nos. 14-15, he reached the green in two at No. 18 and drained his eagle putt from inside 15 feet.
“I was pretty frustrated mid-round,” Scheffler said. “I didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong, I just kind of got on the wrong end of a few things, and the putts definitely weren’t falling middle of the round, but the beginning and the end everything was going in.
“Yeah, I’ll remember those putts towards the end and the beginning of the round. I hit a lot of good putts today and was fortunate to shoot a good round.”
Two-time defending champion K.H. Lee of South Korea opened with a 1-under 70.
–Field Level Media