Duo share Phoenix Open lead, Spieth, Koepka and McIlroy further back

By Sports Desk February 04, 2021

Matthew NeSmith and Mark Hubbard earned a share of the lead following the opening round of the Phoenix Open.

American pair NeSmith and Hubbard both posted 63s to end Thursday a shot clear of countrymen Nate Lashley and Sam Burns at TPC Scottsdale.

Making his first start at the Phoenix Open, NeSmith holed four birdies and an eagle from his opening nine holes to earn an early lead at six under.

NeSmith closed out the round atop the leaderboard with Hubbard, who was flawless after tallying eight birdies, including his final four holes.

Steve Stricker is outright fifth following his six-under-par 65 in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Xander Schauffele is among six players five under through 18 holes.

Stricker joined Tom Lehman (2011, round one, aged 51) as the only players over the age of 50 to shoot 65 in the PGA Tour event.

Former world number one Jordan Spieth is four strokes off the pace following his first-round 67.

Struggling American star Spieth, who has not won since 2017, missed the cut at last week's Farmers Insurance Open.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka is a shot further back after mixing seven birdies with a double-bogey and two bogeys.

Koepka won the tournament in 2015 – his first PGA Tour triumph.

As for Rory McIlroy, he is seven shots behind NeSmith and Hubbard heading into Friday's second round.

Without a victory since the 2019 WGC-HSBC Champions, four-time major winner McIlroy recovered from a double-bogey, bogey start to open with a one-under-par 70 in his tournament bow.

Meanwhile, Webb Simpson started his title defence with a two-over-par 73 – a shot better off than 219 winner Rickie Fowler.

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