Russell Knox took advantage of ideal scoring conditions Thursday to shoot a 9-under, 63 and take the lead at the end of the first round of the Safeway Open at the Silverado Resort.
Knox ended the first round with a one-shot lead over Sam Burns, Bo Hoag, and Cameron Percy. Two-time Safeway champion Brenden Steele heading into Friday’s second round.
Round one was suspended with 13 players yet to complete their first round. Play resumed early Friday morning, with the players finishing their first round before round two could start.
In a change of weather, the orange skies that had been dominating the Northern California landscape because of the wildfires, was replaced by fog – it prompted a one-hour delay – and when play started Knox took full advantage, dominating the par 5’s.
“Yeah, I played good today obviously,” said Knox. “I knew this week that par 5 scoring would be big to your ultimate performance. I hit a beautiful drive there on No. 5 and hit a nice little 3-hybrid in there and managed to get it back there, kind of close and made a nice putt. Obviously, it was a day where a lot of good things happened and definitely nice to get off to a good start.”
Knox acknowledged the change in conditions made a big difference.
“Yeah, it was normal,” said Knox of the weather. “Obviously with the one-hour fog delay was nothing crazy, but it was just a weird day. There’s a lot of moisture in the air today compared to the last couple days, which obviously made it a little bit easier in attacking the course. Yeah, I’m glad we got to play. After yesterday, we were just hoping not to be like that again.”
Steele, who won the tournament in 2016 and 2017, turned in another solid round on a course that obviously fits his game.
“You know, people have been asking me that for years,” said Steele of what’s special about Silverado. “I think there’s a lot of factors, I don’t think it’s one thing, but I really have a good sense of where you can be aggressive out here, where you need to be conservative, where you can miss it to different pins. I just kind of understood it right away, which is nice. And being from California, I’m comfortable on the greens.”
Phil Mickelson is the marquee player in the field and finished with an open-round, 1-under.
“Yeah, I didn’t play great today and yet I fought hard to keep it under par and put myself in a position where a good low round tomorrow will get me in it for the weekend,” said Mickelson. “I’ve got to go shoot 6, 7, 8 under par tomorrow to have a chance. It was a little frustrating for me, I have not been missing it left. So the front nine, when I missed drivers left, it really threw me for a loop because I was having a two-way miss. The last three months I’ve missed it right. I might over-hook it, but I haven’t missed it left and on the front nine I missed them left and that threw me for a loop.”