World No. 237 leads St Jude Classic

LOS ANGELES • American Tom Hoge fired a bogey-free, five-under 65 on Thursday to share the opening-round lead at the PGA Tour's US$6.2 million (S$8.4 million) St Jude Classic.

Compatriot Shawn Stefani and South Korea's Noh Seung Yul also carded 65s at TPC Southwind in Memphis, which is the final PGA event before next week's US Open.

A stroke back were Americans Dustin Johnson, Brian Gay, Steve Stricker and Colt Knost, alongside Argentina's Miguel Angel Carballo and Wales' Jamie Donaldson.

"The key to the round was hole nine. I had to lay up to 130 (yards). I was able to get up and down and keep the momentum going," the 27-year-old Hoge said.

Eight players, including Justin Leonard and South Africa's Retief Goosen, are tied for 10th at 67.

Five-time Major winner Phil Mickelson opened with a 70 and was tied for 40th with Brooks Koepka and Ernie Els.

Hoge made consecutive birdies on holes four, five and six, then added another two straight at Nos. 12 and 13.

Said the world No. 237 golfer: "I was in good position the first few holes and didn't hit it close at all. Luckily, I pieced together a few good shots."

Hoge is appearing in his 45th career PGA Tour event, and is still looking for his first career win.

He posted his first two top-10 finishes earlier this season, finishing joint ninth in both the RSM Classic and the Valero Texas Open.

However, he also failed to make the cut in seven of 17 tournaments this season.

Noh, 25, is seeking his second win on the PGA Tour in his 132nd event. In 2014, he won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2016, with the headline 'World No. 237 leads St Jude Classic'. Print Edition | Subscribe