Matt Kuchar leads in Phoenix as Hideki Matsuyama maintains form
Shane Lowry enjoyed a solid opening round 69 to leave him five shots off the leader
Shane Lowry of Ireland during the first round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Ireland’s Shane Lowry - hoping to make his slip outside the world’s top 50 a short-lived one this week - shot a two under par 69. Following three birdies and a bogey in a lively opening five holes, Lowry shot a birdie on the 10th and a bogey on the final 18th hole.
Padraig Harrington meanwhile, starting on the back nine, shot a one over par 72.
American Ryder Cup star Kuchar made five birdies and holed a 20-foot eagle effort on the 13th at TPC Scottsdale’s Stadium Course, where a typically large crowd were out in force.
Having birdied the first two holes, Kuchar had to wait until the 11th for his next gain, where he converted from 15 feet.
He almost followed his eagle on the 13th with another on 15 — his chip leaving a tap-in birdie, although he was jeered by the 20,000 crowd around the famous par-three 16th when his tee shot found the bunker, before receiving a warmer reception by getting up-and-down for par.
The 38-year-old tapped in for another birdie on the 17th and it could have been even better for Kuchar had he not misread his nine-footer at the last.
Japan’s Matsuyama has won on four of his last eight starts to climb to fifth in the world rankings and again impressed with six birdies in a flawless round.
Last year’s winner told pgatour.com: “I wish I knew why I play well here, but I did hit the ball very well today ... a lot of good shots.
“I have had such good success here and played well here.”
He was joined on six under by American Steele, who holed out from 193 yards for eagle on the 14th as he came home in 30.
Justin Thomas gained the loudest roar of the day at 16 when he almost holed his tee shot, tapping in for birdie en route to a two-under 69.