Akshay Bhatia (64) leads Rocket Mortgage with def. champ Rickie Fowler two back

Akshay Bhatia (64) leads Rocket Mortgage with def. champ Rickie Fowler two back
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DETROIT — Akshay Bhatia chipped in for eagle from 83 feet on the 17th hole at Detroit Golf Club and closed with a birdie for an 8-under 64 and the first-round lead Thursday in the Rocket Mortgage Classic.

The 22-year-old Bhatia, the Texas Open winner in April for his second PGA Tour title, was 6 under over his last six holes. He tied for fifth last week in Connecticut, where he was in the final group that was disrupted by climate protesters storming the 18th green.

Taylor Montgomery and Michael Kim were a stroke back. Montgomery had a 6-under 30 on his front nine and added one more birdie on the back in a bogey-free round.

Defending champion Rickie Fowler shot 66, closing with three straight birdies. Will Zalatoris, Aaron Rai, Eric Cole and Matti Schmid also were at 66.

Cameron Young and Neal Shipley, making his PGA Tour debut, were another shot back.

The 23-year-old Shipley, who was the low amateur at the Masters and U.S. Open, was 2 over after eight holes, then played the final 10 in 7 under. He eagled the par-4 first and had five five straight birdies on Nos. 4-8.

The event includes just 10 of the world’s top 50 players, with Bhatia ranked 31st.

Tom Kim, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 16, lost in a playoff to Scottie Scheffler last week and may have shown signs of fatigue in his ninth consecutive tournament.

Kim shot a 73 and will have to bounce back with a strong round to make the cut on a short course with receptive greens that is ripe for birdies.

A pair of notable amateurs played on the PGA Tour for the first time.

Luke Clanton, who set a Florida State record with a scoring average of 69.3, has a shot to make it to the weekend after an opening 69.

Bhatia cards first-round 64 at Rocket Mortgage

Akshay Bhatia fires off a first-round 64 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and is pleased with his play around the greens as he looks to put his focus on the driver ahead of Round 2.

Miles Russell is talented enough to earn a sponsor exemption after becoming the youngest player in Korn Ferry Tour history to make a cut. At 15, though, he’s not old enough to drive the courtesy car provided by the tournament and technically he’s not permitted to enter the men’s locker room at Detroit Golf Club.

Russell calmed his nerves well enough to hit his first drive 305 yards to the middle of the fairway, but his approach from 119 yards landed in a greenside bunker to set up a bogey.

He went on to make some par-saving putts before carding his first birdie on his 12th hole only to give strokes back with a double bogey three holes later. He shot 74.

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