Seung-yul Noh broke his driver in the middle of the round but it didn’t slow him down.
The 31-year-old South Korean shot a bogey-free 11-under 60 on Thursday at TPC Craig Ranch in the opening round of the AT&T Byron Nelson. Noh grabbed a three-stroke lead over Australian Adam Scott at the PGA Tour’s annual visit to McKinney, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.
“Just everything was going amazing,” Noh said. “One shot missed to 59, but I’m really happy with that.”
On the 12th hole, Noh suffered a hairline crack to the face of his driver, the first time in his career he said he’s ever done that.
“When I hit on 12, I’m swinging so nicely feel like, but keep going like 70 yards going right,” Noh said. “So I just look at the driver and it got the crack in it.”
There wasn’t sufficient damage for him to replace the club initially, but after hitting the same club at 13, the face became visibly deformed and following Model Local Rule G-9: Replacement of Club that is Broken or Significantly Damaged, he was allowed to replace it during the round. A friend fetched his backup and he fitted the head to his shaft on the 15th tee.
Noh had a chance to try to reach the 18th green in two at the par-5 finishing hole and give himself his best chance to break 60, but elected to lay up and settled for a closing birdie.
Noh made nine birdies and an eagle on the day.
Equipment issues for the clubhouse leader @ATTByronNelson.
S.Y. Noh’s driver was damaged mid-round @TPCCraigRanch. pic.twitter.com/HKNWtlXEKT
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 11, 2023
He birdied four of his first six holes and then capped off the front nine with an 8-foot eagle at the ninth. Noh’s putter did its part on the second nine as he poured in a 40-foot birdie at No. 11. He tacked on birdies at 14 and 15. Swinging his backup driver for the first time at 16, his shot sailed right and into trouble but he drained a 27-foot par putt, earning him a congratulatory fist tap to the butt by fellow competitor James Hahn.
“After making long par putt,” Noh said, “I talked to James Hahn, I said, ‘What’s going on? What’s happening today?’ He said, ‘Just don’t think about it, just go play. No idea, just go make everything today.’ ”
Noh followed those orders. He buried a 34-foot birdie putt at 17 to give himself a legit chance to shoot 59.
Needing an eagle at the par-5 18th, Noh struck a beautiful drive, leaving himself 257 yards to the hole with water fronting the green, but opted…
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