Lee Hodges shoots opening-round 63 to take 3M Open lead

BLAINE, Minn. - Lee Hodges got off to a blazing start in his quest to secure a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs, showcasing an outstanding performance with an 8-under 63 during the first round of the 3M Open, giving him a one-stroke lead.

Meanwhile, two-time major champion Justin Thomas, who is eagerly vying for a place in both the Playoffs and the U.S. Team for the Ryder Cup, started with a respectable 69 amidst windier conditions in the afternoon at the TPC Twin Cities.

The afternoon rounds saw Kevin Streelman shine with a remarkable 64, tying Hideki Matsuyama, Brandt Snedeker, and Tyler Duncan for an impressive score. Emiliano Grillo, Nick Hardy, and Justin Suh were close behind, trailing by just one shot, while defending champion Tony Finau was part of a group of nine players who shot a solid 66.

Hodges, ranked 74th in the FedExCup standings, entered the week with inconsistent form, having missed the cut in three of his last four tournaments and 14 out of 29 events this season. However, his early-round brilliance was evident with back-to-back birdies, setting the tone for his exceptional performance.

"To see that wedge shot go to an inch on the first hole and then make that 40-footer on the second hole, I was like, ‘All right, here we go, might as well make a lot of birdies if we’re gonna make a couple,'" Hodges commented on his impressive start.

On the other hand, Finau had a scorching start at 5 under through his first four holes, but he couldn't maintain the momentum throughout the round.

“I didn’t miss a shot for the first seven holes really. That was a pretty hot start, it was a nice way to start my title defense this week and kind of calmed my nerves,” Finau shared.

Adding to the challenge, players in the afternoon had to cope with winds exceeding 20 mph and a sweltering heat index of 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

“To get out early where we had a few holes where we didn’t have to deal with wind is pretty key and just take advantage of those holes,” said Justin Suh, who also competed in the morning wave.

After his round, Matsuyama required some attention due to the heat, but TOUR officials assured it was not a serious concern.

“It got really hot out there on the back nine. I’ll relax this afternoon and hopefully get ready to play well again tomorrow,” Matsuyama stated.

Another highlight of the day was 42-year-old Brandt Snedeker, competing for the sixth time following sternum surgery that kept him out of the game for nine months. Snedeker, who had endured four consecutive missed cuts, found his form and delivered an impressive round with six birdies over eight holes around the turn.

“I knew it was going to be a little learning curve coming back, and took a little longer than I wanted to, but finally able to put a round together today,” Snedeker said. “It was coming, and it was nice to see some putts go in and kind of have an easy stress-free round where I hit the ball really well, didn’t do anything poorly all day.”

As the tournament progresses, all eyes will be on Justin Thomas, currently ranked 75th in the FedExCup standings, as he aims to secure his spot in the upcoming Playoffs.

The competition also featured other major champions like Gary Woodland (No. 90), who shot 72, and Billy Horschel (No. 119), who posted a solid score of 66.

Sepp Straka, fresh from his tie for second place in The Open Championship, faced a challenging round, ending with an even-par 71.

With the tournament heating up, golf enthusiasts eagerly await the subsequent rounds to witness more breathtaking performances and captivating moments on the greens.