Branden Grace opened his account at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with a one-under-par 69 at Firestone Country Club to share ninth place on Thursday.
The world number 12 played two very different nines to set himself within the top 10, five shots behind leader William McGirt and one behind Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth.
Grace broke onto the PGA Tour at the RBC Heritage earlier this year and has continued to impress with a top-10 at the Valero Texas Open and a tie for fifth at the US Open.
South Africa’s top-ranked golfer took advantage of his length off the tee on Thursday and made four birdies during the round, but suffered bogeys at the eighth, 12th, and 16th holes to sign for 69.
McGirt kept a clean sheet to shoot a first-round 64 that put him three strokes clear of second-placed Emiliano Grillo, Jimmy Walker, and Jason Day.
‘It was a good solid day all around,’ McGirt summarised. ‘Drove it pretty well with the exception of the tee shot on 18 and had a lot of perfect numbers, perfect yardages. Actually felt better with the putter from 35 or 40 feet than I did from six feet. Missed a couple there early on that could have been a couple lower, but I had a couple opportunities to make a bogey, as well.’
Louis Oosthuizen and George Coetzee each carded 71 on Thursday to share 26th place, while Charl Schwartzel was one shot worse and shared 33rd.