KH Lee already had his hands full as the defending champion of the AT&T Byron Nelson before the first round began.
Extra commitments that tapped into his time earlier in the week. Proving last year’s win, his first on the PGA Tour, wasn’t a fluke. Finding out he was paired in the first two rounds with the two biggest stars in the tournament – Dallas residents Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler.
And then stepping to the first tee and seeing he was 12 shots behind.
But Lee didn’t let anything get to him in Thursday’s first round at TPC Craig Ranch in the Dallas suburb of McKinney, beginning his title defense with a sterling 8-under-par 64.
That left him four shots behind Sebastian Munoz, who shot a course-record 60 and became the first player in PGA Tour history to post two scores of 60 or better in a single season.
Not much gets to Lee, who is a likable, good-natured guy who enjoys a laugh or two. A few years ago he said, on record, his goals were to become the No. 1 golfer in the world and to become the sexiest golfer in the world. At the CJ Cup last fall, his nameplate on the driving range read ‘Sexiest Golfer.’ And recently, he said, being sexy “means to be a muscular guy. It’s in my dream, but not quite possible in reality. I will work out hard, but I will eat hard as well.”
Well, he feasts at TPC Craig Ranch. Last year, he shot rounds of 65-65-67-66 to finish at 25 under and three shots clear of the field. This year, while world no. 1 Scheffler and three-time major winner Spieth each shot 67, Lee began without a bogey and wrote down six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 12th. His round could have been lower except for a few makeable birdie putts that didn’t fall.
“When I’m here, (I feel) very comfortable,” Lee said.
He added that he played with two great players, which helped.
“Starting with great guys, (it was) very fun and I enjoyed it, so I’m very happy for the first round,” he said.
He said the course requires good iron play and strong putting. And after the round, and after a look at the leaderboard, he knows he has to continue making red numbers.
“Because a lot of guys (are making) birdies and eagles, so I need to go low under par,” he said.
That’s the mindset of all the players. With wide fairways, firm ground and wind that wasn’t an annoyance for most of the day, about 60 players in the field of the 156 players posted rounds in the 60s.
Expect more of the same the rest of the way. The forecast said Thursday was supposed to be the windiest day of the four.