Golf: Rickie Fowler, Troy Merritt share first-round lead at 3M Open

Rickie Fowler (left) and Troy Merritt were tied at seven under when play was suspended. PHOTOS: REUTERS/USA TODAY SPORTS, AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Rickie Fowler posted a bogey-free, seven-under 64 on Thursday (July 22) and held a share of the lead after the first day at the 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota.

Fowler and Troy Merritt were tied at seven under when play was suspended . After a two-plus-hour lightning delay, not all players were able to finish their first round before dark.

Fowler, searching for his first PGA Tour win since February 2019, started on the back nine and strung together three birdies around the turn at No. 18, 1 and 2, including a 29-foot birdie putt he converted on the first.

Though he wound up tying for 53rd last week at the Open Championship, Fowler posted a final-round 65 for some good momentum to take home to the United States.

"Coming off Sunday at The Open, a lot of good stuff there, drove it a lot better," Fowler said. "That was something that was kind of holding me back from making birdies, moving forward last week. I drove it very poorly Friday and Saturday.

"It was not my driver's fault," he added, a playful jab at Bryson DeChambeau's squabble with his equipment manufacturer during The Open. "Had to."

Fowler also knows his issues aren't just about winning tournaments. To qualify for the FedEx Cup play-offs, he needs to finish the regular season in the top 125 in points. He came to Minnesota in 124th place.

"I know where I'm at, what we need to do and stuff like that," Fowler said. "Really just focusing on things we've been working on, playing more consistent good golf.

"More days like today and things will be fine. Kind of keep things, like I said, simple and small, focus on the day to day and this week and go from there. Everything will work out."

Merritt poured in six of his eight birdies on the back nine to score a 30 coming in.

"Hit a lot of fairways, lot of greens, had a lot of good looks, a couple two-putt birdies on the back side," he said. "That's what you've got to do around this place, you've got to make a lot of birdies and try to avoid the little mistakes that aggravate you, and we were able to do that today for the most part."

Scott Stallings, Adam Schenk and Venezuela's Jhonattan Vega each shot six-under 65. They are tied for third with Canada's Roger Sloan, who is at six under through 16 holes. British Open runner-up Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa carded a three-under 68.

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