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Thursday, 25 July 2019
John Rahm  (Getty Images)
John Rahm (Getty Images)

Jon Rahm fired a stunning 62 to open up a three shot lead after day one of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

The Spaniard has three Rolex Series victories but is looking for his first World Golf Championships title this week and made a close to perfect start as the event made its first appearance at TPC Southwind.

His bogey free effort equalled the lowest ever opening round in a WGC event and his own lowest ever round on the European Tour, matching his closing 18 holes en route to victory earlier this month at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

American duo Patrick Cantlay and Bubba Watson, Japanese pair Shugo Imahira and Hideki Matsuyama and Australian Cameron Smith were at five under, a shot clear of Englishmen Tyrrell Hatton and Ian Poulter, Swede Alex Noren, Dane Thorbjørn Olesen and Americans Nate Lashley and Andrew Putnam.

The greens may be quicker than the links courses Rahm has been facing in recent weeks but he had no trouble adjusting, missing just once from inside 25 feet as he holed 140 feet and six inches of putts on day one in Memphis.

The 24-year-old revealed he had never stepped onto the front nine before Thursday as his practice schedule was affected by jetlag, so he was quite rightly delighted with his round.

"It's not the easiest thing but I just wanted my mind to be fresh," he said. "We putt on this speed of green so often that we're used to it - it's just coming back.

"I did a little bit of putting after I played nine just to get the feel for them and when I went out there today I felt pretty good about it.

"That was the key today, holing those putts. I managed to put the ball in positions where the putts didn't have much break. That's why I think I was able to make so many, I don't think I hit a putt where the break was more than a foot."

Starting on the tenth, Rahm hit a lovely tee shot into the par three 11th and took advantage of the par five 16th before his putter got hot and he burst through the field.

A 20 footer on the 18th was followed by a putt from similar range on the first and he joined Matsuyama in the lead, with the 2017 champion picking up shots on the second, third, fourth and tenth.

Another Matsuyama birdie on the 11th edged him back ahead but Rahm holed from 18 feet on the second to join him.

Matsuyama then bogeyed the 12th to leave Rahm alone in top spot and while Cantlay joined him with a birdie on his penultimate hole, Rahm pulled away again.

He played a remarkable shot from the thick rough to two feet for a birdie on the sixth and holed a 16 footer on the seventh to edge two ahead.

A putt from similar range followed on the next and a closing par put Rahm in a commanding position.

Matsuyama - the 2017 champion in Akron at this event - bogeyed the 14th but bounced back with gains on the 16th and 18th, while Cantlay had birdies on the 11th, 15th, 16th, first, third and eighth to go with a bogey on the 18th.

Smith - the two time defending Australian PGA Championship winner - also had six birdies and a bogey, as did Imahira, with two time Masters Champion Watson making seven birdies and two bogeys.

Olesen was bogey free with gains on the second, 12th, 16th and last, while Hatton, Noren and Poulter all made six birdies and two bogeys.

Billy Horschel, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Justin Rose were five shots off the lead alongside Corey Conners and Bryson DeChambeau.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1KOEPKA, BrooksUSA18-16
2SIMPSON, WebbUSA18-13
3LEISHMAN, MarcAUS18-12
T4FLEETWOOD, TommyENG18-11
T4FITZPATRICK, MatthewENG18-11
T4MCILROY, RoryNIR18-11

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