Hero World Challenge 2018

Patrick Cantlay co-leads the 2018 Hero World Challenge with Patrick Reed after a furious closing stretch saw him play the final six holes in 5 under and surge past an elite leaderboard into pole position. Cantlay, who is donating $500 per birdie made to victims of the California wildfires, made seven of them overall on Thursday and played fairly flawless golf en route to his lead.

Let’s take a look back at the first round of the event, who played well, who’s in contention and what’s in store for the second round on Friday.

First place: Patrick Cantlay and Patrick Reed (-7). A delicious twosome, and I don’t know which guy to root for. The former wunderkind who has top-10 game, or the self-proclaimed Ryder Cup legend who just cannot stop talking about what happened in Paris earlier this season. Regardless, the duo combined for 15 birdies in 36 holes on Thursday and are looking to end the season with a W (one that would get Cantlay into January’s Tournament of Champions).

Last place: Hideki Matsuyama (+2). Matsuyama — the 2016 champion here — made six birdies on the day, which means he made four bogeys and two doubles (wow). He was one stroke worse than Tiger Woods and Xander Schauffele.

Other contenders: Henrik Stenson (-4), Dustin Johnson (-4), Bubba Watson (-3) and Alex Noren (-3) all flirted with the lead at points throughout the day on Thursday, and all of them are well within striking distance of the Patricks. Watson botched an opportunity to share the lead after hitting his tee shot on the par-3 17th into the water and making a double bogey to drop back to 3 under.

What did Tiger do: Big Cat is 1 over through 18 holes after a triple bogey on the par-3 12th undid him. He was greenside on his approach, but duffed a chip and it rolled back into the water. Not good!

One thing I loved: There are so few spectators at this event it’s almost disconcerting. This sounds like a thing that is undesirable, but I think it allows golfers to play loose and be themselves — especially when it comes to Tiger — in a way they can’t at a regular PGA Tour event.

One thing I didn’t love: I get that we have to fill TV time, but I’m not sure every single broadcast needs to include a breathless debate over whether Tiger is the best to ever do it.

Shot of the day: This birdie by Cantlay on the 13th from off the map. It kick-started that run of five birdies in his last six holes and the first round lead.

What to watch on Day 2: I expect at least one of the Patricks to be in this until the end. They’re both supreme talents that have the game to hold off guys like Watson, Johnson, Stenson, Justin Thomas and Justin Rose. One thing to note for those lingering around even par or just better than even par is that 18 under or lower has won this tournament each of the three years it’s been in Albany.

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