In Thursday’s slanted evening light, after an early-afternoon storm passed and many of the day’s star-spangled revelers went home for barbecues and fireworks, fewer than a dozen spectators followed 3M Open first-round leader Scott Piercy home late for the final holes of his 9-under-par 62.
Even the Golf Channel coverage had gone off the air by the time Piercy birdied six of his final eight holes for a backside 30 and a two-shot lead over Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama and Canada’s Adam Hadwin.
“Yeah, no TV, no crowds,” Piercy said. “I had a couple people, so I give them kudos.”
Those who remained on the grounds by dinnertime gathered around the two pairings ahead of Piercy’s three-man group, just as they had all afternoon.
World No. 1 Brooks Koepka and 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed played two pairings ahead. Eighth-ranked Bryson DeChambeau and major winner Keegan Bradley played directly ahead of Piercy, tour veteran Rod Pampling and 2018 Valero Texas Open winner Andrew Landry.
“It’s fine, whatever,” said Piercy, ranked 58th in the world. “When I play, there’s not much TV. It’s true.”
Koepka, DeChambeau, world 17th-ranked Tony Finau and 60-year-old Minnesotan Tom Lehman, among others, all are within five shots.
Lehman co-designed and redesigned the course. “There’s a lot to be said for being comfortable with a golf course,” he said.
Lehman played just ahead of fellow Minnesotan Tim Herron, who aced the par-3 eighth hole, his second-to-last Thursday.
“Lumpy’s Lager in the beer tent, right?” said Herron, who really does have such a beer. “I like that.”
Piercy briefly led last month’s U.S. Open first round after he played his first six early-morning holes in 5 under par. He finished tied for 52nd after he shot 67-72-72-77 the next four days at Pebble Beach.
“I started the U.S. Open well, but it was kind of smoke and mirrors,” he said. “And a hot putter.”
Thursday’s 62 certainly featured one. He made a 15-foot putt for birdie at the par-3 eighth on his way to a frontside 32 and made a 30-footer that he called “huge, just to keep the momentum going” for birdie at the par-4 15th, the middle of three consecutive birdies at 14, 15 and 16.
Whether it’s smoke and mirrors this time, too, stay tuned.
An 18-year PGA Tour veteran from Las Vegas, Piercy has won four times on tour, finished tied for second at the 2016 U.S. Open and tied for fifth at the 2013 PGA Championship. He committed months ago to play in the inaugural 3M Open but last month said he might skip the event because the U.S. Open was his seventh tournament in nine weeks and he was exhausted.
Piercy, 40, instead skipped the Travelers and last week’s new Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, even though he said he wanted to play both new events because both require good short-iron play, which he calls “my strong suit.”
Nobody knew exactly what to expect from a TPC Twin Cities course lengthened, narrowed and toughened to challenge the world’s best players after yielding such low scores to PGA Tour Champions players for 18 years.
Piercy didn’t expect a 62, at least not from him.
“I guess if you get really hot you can do it,” he said. “I was thinking 4 or 5 under a day would nice. You always get one or two guys that go really low and I just happened to be that guy.”
He went two strokes lower than both Matsuyama and Hadwin, whose morning 64s crashed this July 4th holiday party.
Matsuyama’s five tour victories include two Waste Management Phoenix Opens and one Memorial Tournament, Jack Nicklaus’ event. He also has seven top-10 finishes in major championships, the best a tie for second at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
He, too, had a narrowed putting stance and a hot putter Thursday on greens big, receptive and relatively flat.
“I was rolling it good,” Matsuyama, 27, said through an interpreter.
He made 106 feet of putts and needed just 26 of them to go so low on a day when some fans wore Uncle Sam costumes and patriotic colors.
“Great gallery,” Matsuyama said. “A lot of people, a lot of red, white and blue.”
Hadwin made 111 feet and 6 inches of putts himself on the way to carding eight birdies — including four consecutively starting at No. 4 — and one bogey.
Born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and now living in British Columbia, Hadwin was asked if his 64 celebrated American Independence Day or Canada Day four days belatedly.
“Hideki and I are taking out the celebration for Americans so far,” he said. “I feel like a bit of an adopted American. My wife’s American. I’ve got a green card, so it’s home for me.”
This far north, he felt a bit at home Thursday.
“A little bit, certainly with the accents,” said Hadwin, who became the eighth PGA Tour player to shoot a 59 when he did so at the 2017 CareerBuilder Challenge. “I played with some guys in the pro-am that had thicker accents than me. Made me feel right at home.”