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Golf Roundup

Webb Simpson, Matthew Fitzpatrick lead WGC; Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau struggle

It was congratulations all around for Webb Simpson (right), who shot 66 in Thursday's opening round.
It was congratulations all around for Webb Simpson (right), who shot 66 in Thursday's opening round.Mike Ehrmann/Getty

Webb Simpson ran off three straight late birdies for a share of the lead Thursday in the Workday Championship at Bradenton, Fla. Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau ran up some big numbers.

Simpson matched Matthew Fitzpatrick with a 6-under-par 66 at The Concession in the World Golf Championships event moved from Mexico City to Florida because of COVID-19 circumstances.

Simpson's finishing stretch included a wedge to 2 feet, a 30-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole and a two-putt birdie from about 40 feet on the par-5 17th.

Fitzpatrick, who contended last week at Riviera, played bogey-free on the Jack Nicklaus design that had never been used for a PGA Tour event.

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“Very pleased with the start,“ Simpson said. “I worked on a couple things last week with putting alignment and with my driver and I saw good things from that today. You always want to see it first round back, but it doesn’t always happen that way, so I was happy to see like tough tee shots with trouble, really stepping up and making good swings.

“And made a lot of putts today,” he added, “so that was a good feeling.”

Johnson had his first Sunday round over par in a year when he shot 72 last week while in contention. The start at this World Golf Championship was even worse.

The world's No. 1 player drove left into the trees on the 18th hole as he was making the turn, had to pitch out sideways, came up short and then failed to get up-and-down to take double bogey. He made another double bogey on No. 5 with a tee shot into the water.

Johnson wasn't alone in his struggles. DeChambeau also shot a 77, with his big trouble coming on the 16th. After a tee shot into the water, he went right of the fairway, came up short of the green and took three shots to get down for a triple bogey.

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Bubba Watson had a 77, and Matthew Wolff shot an 83 and withdrew.

Brooks Koepka was a stroke out of the lead at 67 with Billy Horschel, Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner, who is playing for the first time since the Sony Open because his wife had their third child.

“If you’re on, you’re going to have chances. You’re going to be really good with the tee ball or you’re going to have chances with your iron play,” Horschel said. “If you’re off with your ball-striking and you miss in some tough spots, you can look pretty silly.”

Second-ranked Jon Rahm bogeyed the final hole late in the afternoon for a 68.

Webb Simpson walks the 18th green during the first round of World Golf Championships-Workday Championship Thursday.
Webb Simpson walks the 18th green during the first round of World Golf Championships-Workday Championship Thursday.Mike Ehrmann/Getty

Tony Finau, coming off a playoff loss to Max Homa last week at Riviera, also was at 68 with defending champion Patrick Reed, Wade Ormsby, Sungjae Im and Cameron Smith.

Rory McIlroy had three bogeys in a 69.

Third-ranked Justin Thomas one-putted his last four holes — three birdies and one par — to salvage a 73 after he had dropped four shots in a three-hole stretch on his first nine. The par was a 10-footer on the par-5 seventh after it took him two shots to get out of a fairway bunker.

Homa, coming off the hometown win in Los Angeles, also had a 73.

Patrick Cantlay, who leads the FedEx Cup, withdrew before the start of the round with stomach and dehydration issues.

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PGA — Tommy Gainey birdied five of the last seven holes at breezy Grand Reserve for a 7-under 65 and the first-round lead in the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open at Rio Grande.

Gainey, the 45-year-old from South Carolina who won his lone PGA Tour title in 2012, had a one-stroke lead over local favorite Rafael Campos, Robert Garrigus, Taylor Pendrith, Lee Hodges, Greg Chalmers, Fabian Gomez and Brandon Wu.

The tournament is being played opposite the World Golf Championship event in Florida. The winner will get into the PGA Championship in May but not the Masters in April.