The first round of a sneaky good Mayakoba event is in the books, and while the top of the leaderboard doesn’t jump off the page, the field’s strength sits just beyond the leaders.Will Gordon and Russell Henley are Nos. 1-2 at the top of this board after firing 62 and 63 respectively in Round 1, but the heavyweights are a few strokes back and looking to roll to the top on Friday and beyond. Let’s take a look at how Thursday played out at Mayakoba.The leader1. Will Gordon (-9): Gordon made eight birdies and an eagle en route to his first-round lead. The former Vanderbilt golfer had a strong year on the Korn Ferry Tour last season, accumulating six top 10s (including a win) and finishing sixth on the KFT points list. His best finish on the PGA Tour, however, is a T3 at the 2020 Travelers Championship. He said after his 62 that he’s eschewing what he tried to do in the past by tempering his expectations.”I think that’s what I’ve tried to do in the past, but honestly I’m just going to try to enjoy the moment and continue just to move forward,” Gordon said. “I don’t know what the rest of the week holds, nothing’s promised and nothing’s given, so I’ve just got to continue to try to go out and earn it.”
Gordon’s season has gotten off to a really nice start as he’s made the cut at each of his first four events of the year. It was fascinating to hear him discuss what he’s learned and how he’s grown mentally because of the success of those he’s competed with on the KFT.”There’s a lot of guys kind of my age and younger that are having a lot of success out here and guys that have been out here and had some major success that I grew up playing with,” Gordon said. “So … it does kind of take the fear away in a sense because you know you can do it, but you’ve still got to go out and do it and earn it. So it’s been good to see the KFT class play well this fall and I’ve gotten to see a bunch of those guys, so it’s been a cool transition this fall.”Other contenders2. Russell Henley (-8)T3. Scott Piercy, Francesco Molinari, Sam Ryder, Harris English (-7)T7. David Lingmerth, Martin Laird, Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland (-6)The big dogs reside there at the T7 spot with Hovland going for his third consecutive victory at this tournament and Scheffler aiming for his fifth PGA Tour win in 2022. They played together on Thursday and shot a best ball 60.
“For the most part you’re doing your own thing, but it’s nice when you’re on the golf course and you can see other players hitting really good shots,” Scheffler said. “I think that’s good kind of momentum for the group, when somebody starts playing well, the other guys can kind of feed off of it sometimes.”Hovland’s last nine rounds at Mayakoba look like this: 67-69-63-65-67-65-62-67-65. That makes for a 65.6 average over the last three seasons, which is absolutely ridiculous. Still, Hovland says he can (and should) play better than he did on Thursday.”I think the last two years I’ve started 4 and 5 under (He was 4 under in the first round of both wins), so even improved on that,” Hovland said. “Obviously I made a couple putts and holed out from the bunker. Did a lot of good stuff today, but at the same time I felt like I hit some really bad shots, too. So I feel like there’s still opportunities to improve.”
Where’s Morikawa?I’m not going to get concerned about Collin Morikawa (or any top 10 player in the world) at the start of November of any year. However, he shot 71 on Thursday and is currently T90. If he finishes outside the top 25 (which looks like a probability right now), that would mark three straight events to start his season in which he hasn’t notched a top 25 appearance. It’s something that’s worth monitoring.2022 Mayakoba odds, picksScottie Scheffler: 6-1Viktor Hovland: 13/2Russell Henley: 9-1Will Gordon: 14-1Harris English: 18-1Maverick McNealy: 18-1Tom Hoge: 22-1Francesco Molinari: 22-1It’s a pretty interesting board right now. Scheffler is a bit too short for my taste, although I do kind of love Hovland at 13/2. Hoge at 22-1 is speaking my language. I’ve been riding the Hoge train for weeks now, and he can’t stop shooting scores in the mid 60s. He’s one of the best iron players in the world that nobody knows about. The value here is probably with Tony Finau — who was my pre-tournament pick — at 35-1. He’s 3 under and just four back of third place. That’s nothing for a scorer like Big Tone at a place like Mayakoba, and I’m believing that he shook any rust he had off in Round 1.