The unique (and often bizarre) Butterfield Bermuda Championship got underway Thursday with 500 FedEx Cup points and a likely Masters invite on the line in Southampton, Bermuda. Difficult weather seems to be in the cards for the next few days, but Round 1 was about as good as it gets and players took complete advantage of a defenseless golf course.
Austin Smotherman and Harrison Endycott lead the way after each firing a 9-under 62 Thursday, but there are some interesting names (at least given this field's strength) just beyond them. Harry Higgs, Justin Lower, Patrick Rodgers and Nick Hardy are all in the top 20 on the leaderboard but currently well behind where the leaders sit following their gems in the first round.
T1. Austin Smotherman, Harrison Endycott (-9)
Smotherman is a good ball-striker who had a fabulous day. He took advantage of that strong ball-striking and didn't need to make anything crazy on the greens at Port Royal Golf Course to take over the lead.
In 29 career starts on the PGA Tour, Smotherman has just one top 10, and it came at the opposite field Barracuda Championship. He just missed out on keeping his Tour card at the Wyndham Championship in August, but rebounded at the Korn Ferry Tour Finals to get his card and earn some status on the big league tour. Despite little experience in this position, he's been through much more stressful situations as a pro and sounds ready to contend for this tournament and what could be a career-changing win.
"Fortunately and unfortunately, I'm kind of comfortable in that position being kind of on the bubble," Smotherman said. "I've had it kind of throughout my entire career now. I think the best thing for me was once I knew those [LIV] guys were going to be leaving and having those extra two weeks off before Napa just to mentally reset, I mean, we're finishing the year grinding.
"And then obviously to have what happened at Wyndham, let that sink in, use that as some motivation coming out. So a good offseason with some time off with some really good work especially with these last two weeks off not getting into ZOZO or CJ, so I knew Bermuda was going to be my next start. Plan to play these next three out to finish the season, or finish the fall season. We're doing a lot of good things so just keep doing what we're doing."
T3. Arjun Atwal, Adam Schenk, Scott Brown, Denny McCarthy, Robby Shelton (-8)
T8. Justin Lower, Sean O'Hair, Harry Higgs, Thomas Detry, Dylan Wu, Ben Martin, Greyson Sigg, Kevin Yu (-7)
This is quite a crew one and two back of the co-leaders, but the big name here is probably Higgs. He has not played well since finishing T14 at the Masters in April -- he has just one other top 20 in that timespan -- but he had it going on Thursday and is now among the favorites to get what would be his first PGA Tour victory. He spoke openly about how difficult the struggle has been for him (which is a lot of why he's compelling to root for as a player).
"I legitimately have not played good golf since the Masters in April, and Lord knows why," Higgs said. "Well, actually, one of the definites is I was way too hard on myself. Still wasn't playing my best, but just had a poor enough attitude that, you know, with making the cut by a shot or two and then having a chance to get better over the weekend to kind of break out of the slump, I just didn't have a good enough attitude to -- it would cost me a shot or two and I'd miss out by one or two. and then the last couple months I wasn't really even close. So today was nice to see successful golf shots, kind of not be shocked when I look up like, 'Oh, wow the ball's nowhere near where I was thinking.'"
Kim Swan's quest
Swan, a 65-year-old former European Tour pro, was a teaching pro at Port Royal Golf Course who retired earlier this year but was given a sponsor invite into the tournament.
"As a senior citizen I've made a concerted effort to embrace a more healthier fitness-focused lifestyle; with this opportunity I aim to turn back the clock for one last dance in honor of all those who helped along my life's journey and lift up the Port Royal Golf Course for the great public golf course it remains today," he told the Royal Gazette earlier this year.
On Thursday, he broke 90 with an 18-over 89. As a 65-year-old who doesn't play professionally. That's big time.
2022 Bermuda Championship updated odds, picks
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Denny McCarthy: 7-1
- Robby Shelton: 11-1
- Adam Schenk: 12-1
- Thomas Detry: 14-1
- Austin Smotherman: 14-1
- Harrison Endycott: 18-1
- Seamus Power: 20-1
- Justin Lower: 20-1
- Nick Hardy: 25-1
Detry is intriguing as a talent and perhaps intriguing at 14-1. However, I'm going way off the board here with Higgs at 80-1. He hasn't been good for most of the year, but he's only two back, and he's shown enough flashes of talent that 80-1 should be considered too long. He also finished runner-up on this course back in 2020. If he was 40-1, that would still be too long for me so 80-1 feels like a steal.