2024 CJ Cup Byron Nelson leaderboard, scores: Reigning champion Jason Day three back of lead after Round 1 (2024)

After a copious amount of rain delayed the beginning of the first round at TPC Craig Ranch for the 2024 edition of the CJ Cup Byron Nelson, scoring plummeted as players took advantage of soft conditions.

Players who shot even 1 under found themselves well back of the lead with tons of ground to make up over the next three days. This is not unusual for this golf course, though the overnight rain surely made it play a bit easier than it otherwise would have.

Several golfers took full advantage of the 2-under scoring average, including Alex Noren, Jake Knapp, Taylor Pendrith and Round 1 leader Matt Wallace.

Let's take a closer look at the first round on Thursday.

The leader

1. Matt Wallace (-8)

The Englishman went out early and destroyed the golf course. Incredibly, he was not even top 40 in putting but still posted eight birdies on the day. The question, of course, is whether he can sustain the lead. Wallace does not have a top-15 finish anywhere in the world this year.

Wallace said he's still learning about his game and how to play it at the highest level, noting that he watched the Masters and took away a lot in terms of his mindset. That's something he'll try to use over the next three rounds.

"So, watching some of the best players in the world, and what I'm seeing from a lot of them, especially the younger guys, younger than me -- I'm not too old, but younger than me -- they're so focused in their shot and not worrying about the outcome or what's out there," said Wallace.

"That's what I'm trying to do now. So this might be test number 158 of me with a different round of golf. But taking care my business and my swing is the most important part, and I'm able to do that at the moment because I'm in a good place."

Other contenders

T2. Taylor Pendrith, Alex Noren, Chesson Hadley, Jake Knapp, Davis Riley (-7)
T7. Alex Smalley, Hayden Buckley, Kelly Kraft (-6)
T14. Justin Lower, Keith Mitchell, Jason Day (-5)

Day is a massive name among the current contenders. As a major champion, as well as the reigning winner of this very tournament, he has to be considered one of the handful of favorites going into the next three days. His day started hot with three birdies in his first five holes and mostly continued on the second nine. His big mishap came at the par-5 5th hole (he started on the back nine on the course), where he made a bogey 6 on a hole that was averaging close to 4.5 shots on the day.

Still, he's in good position to win for the first time in just under a year. It was a victory I thought could propel him for the rest of 2023, but Day has just five top 20s since that win at this course last May (albeit all five of them at really good events, including a T2 at the Open Championship).

Day said after his round that his approach play was better than it has been but that he has mixed feelings about having his coach, Chris Como, in town (Como lives in Dallas) because it can lead to obsessing over his swing from a technical standpoint. He noted that there are probably some other degenerates out there that can relate.

Can confirm: There are.

Spieth pops and then fades?

Jordan Spieth also birdied three of his first five and ran it all the way to 4 under through 13 holes before also making bogey at the par-5 5th hole. His 3-under 68 was decent and will have him in a good enough position going into the next 54 holes. Even more encouraging? The fact that he was solid from tee to green after a stretch of play that has, uh, not been so solid from tee to green.

"Started really nicely and then stalled," Spieth said. "You know, I snuck one on 4 but I thought I would maybe grab one on 3 and then [hole] five in. To play 1-over [on the last five holes] is kind of a bummer. You're looking to play those holes a couple under.

"It's a very gettable golf course," he continued. "Obviously very wet, but I just played the easy holes poorly; played the par-5s 1 over. That was kind of the story of the day. The par-5s you kind of need to be two-and-a-half-under out here each day. I'll have to make that back up."

2024 CJ Cup Byron Nelson updated odds, picks

Odds via Sportsline consensus

  • Alex Noren: 8-1
  • Matt Wallace: 16-1
  • Jason Day: 16-1
  • Jake Knapp: 16-1
  • Ben An: 16-1
  • Taylor Pendrith: 18-1
  • Stephan Jaeger: 18-1
  • Min Woo Lee: 18-1

This is a board that is somewhat untouchable for me, but if I had to make a pick here I kind of like Wallace at 16-1. That's a nice number for somebody with the outright lead who didn't do it all with the putter. I like that better than everybody else shorter than 25-1. Keith Mitchell is intriguing at 25-1, and Si Woo Kim is interesting at 35-1.

2024 CJ Cup Byron Nelson leaderboard, scores: Reigning champion Jason Day three back of lead after Round 1 (2024)
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