Daniel Berger returned from a layoff to shoot a superb six-under 66 in the first round of the Hero World Challenge at Albany Golf Course here on Thursday. Berger shares the lead with Abraham Ancer and Rory McIlroy.
American Berger, playing his first competitive round since the Ryder Cup in September, stated that he needed the break. “It’s probably the longest break I’ve had in my career. It was a little scary taking over a month off, but mentally and physically, I needed the break,” Berger said.
Berger, the son of former Davis Cup tennis player Jay Berger, started the day with four straight birdies.
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McIlroy had an up and down day. He carded six birdies and an eagle, but slipped on the par-5 ninth with a shot into the water. He made up for it on the 14th, chipping in to get an eagle.
“I’m happy with how I responded on the back nine after that (shot into the water). I played the back nine in 5-under par,” McIlroy said.
On the mishit, McIlroy said, “I committed to the shot, but I just didn’t make a great swing.”
For world number 12 Ancer, it was all about riding a wave of confidence.
Earlier this year, Ancer took the 2021 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational title to become the fourth Mexican player to win on the PGA Tour and the first to win on the European Tour. Ancer believes that he belongs with the top guns in the sport.
“I feel like I’ve been able to improve my game every single year. I feel I can compete in big-time events and majors,” Ancer said.
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Justin Thomas held the lead briefly on seven-under, but a missed six-foot putt saw him make a double bogey on the 18th hole. Thomas played the round in sunglasses, having undergone LASIK surgery around 10 days ago.
“I’ve been wanting to do it (LASIK) for a while, and it finally worked out with the schedule. I don’t wear sunglasses too often; I’m trying to protect the eyes,” Thomas said.
Thomas, Webb Simpson and Brooks Koepka are tied fourth, one stroke behind the leaders.
|SCORES (top four):
66: Daniel Berger, Abraham Ancer, Rory McIlroy; 67: Webb Simpson,
Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka
(The writer is in Nassau on the invitation from Hero MotoCorp)