Hero World Challenge Holmes leads but Matsuyama on his heels

Holmes fired an eight-under 64 to seize a one-stroke lead over Maruyama after Thursday's first round.

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J.B. Holmes hits an approach shot on the first hole during round one of the Hero World Challenge at Albany, The Bahamas on December 1, 2016 play

J.B. Holmes hits an approach shot on the first hole during round one of the Hero World Challenge at Albany, The Bahamas on December 1, 2016

(Getty/AFP)
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When it comes to major breakthroughs, J.B. Holmes and Hideki Matsuyama hope they can follow the path of Jordan Spieth, who used momentum from a 2014 Hero World Challenge title to win two majors in 2015.

Holmes fired an eight-under 64 to seize a one-stroke lead over Maruyama after Thursday's first round of the 18-man Bahamas invitational event hosted by Tiger Woods, who made his return after a 16-month layoff with a 73.

Spieth won the 2014 Australian Open, then took the Challenge crown and a 2015 PGA event in Florida, momentum that carried into victories at the 2015 Masters and US Open for his first major titles.

Matsuyama and Holmes would not mind similar success at the Challenge this week and the momentum carryover in the majors next year.

Holmes is coming off a 2016 season that saw him finish fourth at the Masters and third at the British Opens, the best major results of his career, and enjoy six top-six efforts in all. But he hasn't won since the 2015 Houston Open.

"I've had two great years, probably the best of my career," Holmes said. "Hopefully I can keep building on that and progress on. I look forward to this season and hopefully a win or two."

Matsuyama achieved his best major finish with a share of fourth at this year's PGA Championship, his fifth top-10 major effort, and is coming off a victory at the World Golf Championships HSBC Champions event in Shanghai.

"I have a lot to work on in order to win a major, but number one is probably putting," Matsuyama said. "All I can do now is just work on my stroke and hopefully that will see me through."

Matsuyama found his way Thursday with birdies on six of the last 10 holes following a double bogey at the eighth that wiped out his birdies on two of the first three holes.

"Front nine I didn't play real well, but back nine I started making some putts," Matsuyama said. "I'm happy with the round."

Holmes opened with his lone bogey of the round, birdied the par-5 third and sixth then reeled off three birdies in a row starting at the par-3 eighth and added an eagle at the par-5 11th.

Dustin Johnson of the United States plays a tee shot on the seventh hole during the pro-am ahead of the Hero World Challenge at Albany, The Bahamas on November 30, 2016 play

Dustin Johnson of the United States plays a tee shot on the seventh hole during the pro-am ahead of the Hero World Challenge at Albany, The Bahamas on November 30, 2016

(Getty/AFP/File)

"I hit a really good drive and then I hammered a 3-wood and got it on the green," Holmes said. "I was just trying to get it down there to two putt and I made a long putt for eagle. It was definitely a nice surprise."

Holmes said the wind died down allowing him to make a charge.

"This course's defense is the wind and when it goes away you can definitely shoot a good number," he said.

"It was a great day for me. Putted well, hit my irons well and my driver well. It was not necessarily an easy 64, but it was stress-free because I hit a lot of good shots."

Reigning US Open champion Dustin Johnson of the United States was third on 66 with British Open winner Henrik Stenson of Sweden, South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen and American Matt Kuchar on 67.

"I'll take 5-under four times. That works," Stenson said. "I don't feel like I deserved a better score, but it could have been better. I felt like I kept it together nicely."

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