It was a blustery day at Colonial Country Club, but a pair of former Ryder Cuppers made the most of the early conditions. Here’s how things look after the opening round of the Charles Schwab Challenge, where Tony Finau leads Jordan Spieth by a shot:
Leaderboard: Tony Finau (-6), Jordan Spieth (-5), Roger Sloan (-5), Jason Dufner (-3), Jimmy Walker (-3), J.J. Henry (-3), Peter Uihlein (-3)
What it means: Finau’s decision to tweak his putting grip paid off in a big way, as the bomber carved up Hogan’s Alley to the tune of a 64. That gave him a slim advantage over Spieth, who nabbed his best finish in more than a year last week at Bethpage and capitalized on some stellar play on the greens to move into the mix as he looks to slip into the winner’s jacket for the second time in the last four years.
Round of the day: Finau struggled on the greens Sunday en route to a 79 at Bethpage Black, so he ditched his conventional putting grip for a claw-style option. It led to seven birdies against just a single bogey, as Finau rolled in four putts of 18 feet or more en route to the solo lead. One month after playing in the final group at the Masters, Finau remains in search of his second career win and first since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open.
Best of the rest: If Finau was hot on the greens, Spieth was borderline nuclear. After rolling in more than 150 feet worth of putts, Spieth turned in a 65 that marked the best round of his career in terms of strokes gained: putting. With runner-up finishes on either side of his 2016 win, he continues to feast on a historic layout just across the interstate from his hometown of Dallas.
Biggest disappointment: Jon Rahm was viewed as one of the pre-tournament favorites, but after missing the cut at Bethpage he’s instead in line for another early exit. Rahm made a double bogey on No. 3, a triple on No. 14 and circled only two birdies en route to a 5-over 75 that left him outside the top 100 in a 121-man field.
Main storyline heading into Friday: All eyes on Spieth. While he eschews the notion that his T-3 at the PGA sparked the start of a comeback, his strong putting performance on Long Island carried over into the opening round at Colonial. Should he keep it up over the weekend and contend for another title, it’ll be mounting evidence that the worst is assuredly behind him. But consistency has been the biggest variable this season for a player who remains in search of his first win in nearly two years.
Shot of the day: The 247-yard fourth hole is known as the middle of the three-hole Horrible Horseshoe, but it was no match for Finau who laced a 4-iron to inside 3 feet, setting up an easy birdie.
Quote of the day: “It was just time to scratch that itch and see how it goes.” – Finau on his decision to switch to a claw putting grip