The CJ Cup at Summit got an early run at 59 from an unlikely source, a late attempt to overtake the lead and (unsurprisingly) a loaded leaderboard after Round 1 on Thursday at The Summit Club in Las Vegas.Robert Streb leads by a stroke over Keith Mitchell after 18 holes and played the first six holes in 7 under and shot a 29 on the front. Streb cooled off a bit coming home, but still shot a 11-under 61 to top the board going into Friday. Mitchell’s 62 was not quite as wild but was still a bit cleaner than Streb’s card as Mitchell birdied the last to touch off his round. Those two are well clear of the rest of the field, but there is obviously a long way to go (especially considering what a difficult time even 54-hole leaders have had closing out tournaments this year). Let’s take a closer look at the rounds of Streb and Mitchell and see who might push them on Friday and Saturday at the preeminent event of the PGA Tour’s fall slate.1. Robert Streb (-11): This would be the biggest win of Streb’s PGA Tour career by a wide margin. How likely is it? Caesars Sportsbook says Viktor Hovland is the 9-1 favorite, and Mitchell (not Streb) is second at 12-1. Streb was really (really) good on Thursday, but he did the majority of his work on these greens, and he’ll likely be run down by better ball-strikers over the next 54. Still, this is a big three-day stretch for Streb. There are a ton of FedEx Cup and OWGR points at stake for somebody who has, at times over the course of his career, struggled to get off the FedEx Cup bubble at the end of the season.
2. Keith Mitchell (-10): Mitchell has more staying power than Streb, but he led the field in putting, which likely won’t hold up. However, after two missed cuts to start this season, Mitchell is in a great spot and he rolled with some heavyweights at the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this year (which Rory McIlroy, who won that tournament, referenced earlier this week). He said afterward he’s excited for a good bounce back after failing to make the weekend at last week’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.”I hate to say everything [clicked], but everything clicked,” he said after his 62. “I felt a lot better about my swing. I was striking the ball better. Really spent a lot of time the last four or five days working on it. I felt a little rusty coming off from the offseason, I can attribute that to a lot more fishing and not as much golf.”3. Harry Higgs (-8): Higgs had a monstrous day from tee to green. In a field with 20 of the 25 best players in the world, it was Higgs who led them all in approach shots. He hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation, had 10 (10!) looks at birdie inside of 12 feet and gained nearly five strokes on those approach shots. His 64 legitimately could have been up there with Mitchell’s 62 or even Streb’s 61. This would be a hell of a place to grab your first career PGA Tour victory.
T4. Sergio Garcia, Hudson Swafford, Viktor Hovland (-7): What a trio. Garcia was terrific from tee to green, but Hovland is the guy to watch. He improved a horrific short game from last week, picked up a few strokes with his putter, birdied the last and is now in a great position to grab the biggest win of his career. He was my pick to win this week because he struck it so well last week at Shriners, and while I would have liked perhaps a slightly better Round 1 from tee to green, he’s in an ideal spot to take over this lead in the next few days.T7. Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Cameron Smith, Jhonattan Vegas, Aaron Wise, Ian Poulter, Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth (-6): And the rest of the board is at 6 under! There are obviously some huge names here but none bigger than Spieth. He did his normal Jordan Houdini act at times, didn’t hit the ball all that well on approach shots and still managed 66. Normal Spieth stuff (like this).
Maybe the second-most interesting name on this list is Fowler, who has just one top-10 finish since the beginning of 2020 (a T8 at this year’s PGA Championship). The best news for him is that he hit it great. This was not just a one-off elite putting round. Only Streb and Higgs were better from tee to green, which is mostly where Fowler has struggled over the last 18 months. He said some recent time with Butch Harmon was an encouragement to him, and hopefully that leads to a renewed Fowler, which would obviously be great for him and his team but also for the sport itself.