GREEENSBORO — There was still dew on the grass when John Huh set off on his brisk morning walk around Sedgefield Country Club early Thursday.
By the time Huh finished his round on the Donald Ross-designed golf course, it was hot, humid … and he had put up a blistering score the rest of the field chased all day.
Huh made seven birdies and an eagle on his way to a career-best round of 9-under 61, seizing the first-round lead at the 83rd Wyndham Championship.
“I’m actually surprised I’m at the top of the leaderboard, to be quite honest,” Huh said. “I didn’t really feel my game was there, but it’s one of those days where I took advantage of some good shots and good breaks.”
Sungjae Im eagled both of Sedgefield’s par-5 holes and shot a 7-under 63 to take sole possession of second place.
Peter Malnati and Brandon Wu are tied for third at 6-under 64. Nine players — including 2009 Wyndham champ Ryan Moore — shot 65s and are tied for fifth on the crowded leaderboard.
But the 32-year-old Huh set the pace.
He went off the first tee at 6:50 a.m. with Nick Watney and Vince Whaley in the first group of the day. Huh made a 9-foot putt for birdie on No. 1, the first of his six birdies on the front nine.
“I hit it close enough and gave myself a chance all day,” Huh said. “The longest putt I made was the (38-footer) for eagle, but other than that, I put it pretty much inside 10 feet and made all those.”
Huh, the 2012 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, made his eagle on the 15th hole.
“I didn’t know it was a 38-footer. It felt more like a 15- or 20-footer,” Huh said. “But I knew it was going to be a quick one. I hit a good stroke, hit my line. I got lucky that it hit the flagstick and went in the hole. It was just one of those holes where you hit your spot and hopefully it goes in.”
Huh birdied the 17th, then saved par from the rough on No. 18 to finish his 61 well before noon.
Huh, the 2012 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, started the day No. 120 in the FedEx Cup points standings. The top 125 make the playoffs, and a victory here could vault him into the top 40.
“I know what’s on the line,” Huh said. “I know how important this tournament would be. At the same time, you’ve just got to go and play. I did that really well today.”
Im, meanwhile, started the day No. 15 in the FedEx standings, comfortably in the playoffs with a chance to move into the top 10.
The 24-year-old South Korean was the 2019 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, and he has played well in Greensboro.
Im is playing in his fourth consecutive Wyndham Championship, finishing sixth, ninth and 24th in his previous starts.
Im has a 66.42 scoring average at Sedgefield, and he scored under par in 12 of 13 competitive rounds here. The outlier was an even-par 70 three years ago.
It’s a golf course the players love, one of only two Donald Ross layouts on the PGA Tour year in and year out.
“I like everything about it,” two-time major champion Zach Johnson said after his round of 3-under 67. “I like the character. There’s not one (dull) hole. There’s certain courses we play and anybody can play that are forgettable. This one’s not. It’s got a ton of character left, right, up, down, short, long.
“I love it because there’s certain courses where it becomes pretty obvious, ‘this is a first-shot course,’ or ‘the fairways are so wide it becomes a second-shot golf course.’ This is everything. I mean, you have to hit the fairways. The holes that I made bogey today, I did not hit the fairways. Then after that, you need great speed with your putting because the greens are fast and they’re undulated. So it requires every club in your bag to be on.”
John Huh was definitely “on” in his early-morning first round Thursday, off to a hot start on a sweltering summer day.
But with three more rounds to come and low scores there for the taking, this Wyndham Championship is very much up for grabs.
By Jeff Mills. In his career at the News & Record, journalist Jeff Mills won 10 national and 12 state writing awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors, the Society for Features Journalism, and the N.C. Press Association.