by the Associated Press
Webb Simpson ran out of sensational shots in the end to keep him from joining an elite group.
Simpson shot a 9-under-par 61 for a 1-stroke lead over Whee Kim after the first round of A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier in West Virginia on Thursday in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.
Simpson posted his best career score after shaking off a two-hour weather delay with six holes left in his round. He came up short in his bid to shoot the eighth sub-60 round on the PGA Tour. Needing birdies on the par-5 17th and the par-3 18th for a 59, he parred both.
“I knew a 59 was in there, but it’s all right,” Simpson said. “Great start. Scores were good though, so you’ve got to keep the pedal down.”
Simpson, whose 4-shot victory at the Players Championship in May was his first win in more than four years, has seen his share of chances in West Virginia before. He finished third in 2014 and lost a 1-stroke lead on the back nine in the final round in 2011 and 2012.
Kim had back-to-back bogeys on the front nine on the Old White TPC, and then ran off five birdies over a seven-hole stretch. The South Korean had 10 birdies overall and shot 62. Teenager Joaquin Niemann of Chile was another stroke back at 7-under 63.
Kelly Kraft shot 64 while Warren native Jason Kokrak, Keegan Bradley and J.J. Henry were at 65.
Defending champion Xander Schauffele was among a large group at 4-under 66. That also includes Akron native Harold Varner III and Phil Mickelson, playing in his first tournament since the U.S. Open, when he intentionally violated golf rules by hitting a moving ball on the 13th green in the third round. He later apologized, saying his anger and frustration got the best of him.
Mickelson missed the cut at the Greenbrier in three of his four previous appearances. Bubba Watson, starting on the back nine, jammed his wrist on a bunker shot on No. 11. He finished the round and shot 2-under 68.
Silver Lakes’ Ryan Armour who is coming off a second place finish last week shot 3-under 67.