Christiaan Bezuidenhout is two shots behind leader Chesson Hadley after firing a six-under-par 66 in the first round of the PGA Tour’s Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Mississippi.
The South African’s round included four birdies and an eagle. Countryman Erik van Rooyen is a further shot behind.
Hadley fired eight birdies in an eight-under-par 64 on Thursday.
Stung by a two-foot birdie miss at his second hole, the par-five 11th, Hadley birdied the next three holes, a run that included a 28-foot putt at the 13th and a two-putt birdie from the fringe at 14, then added another birdie at the 17th to make the turn at four under.
He followed a birdie at the 1st with another burst of three straight birdies at the 3rd, 4th and 5th to take a one-stroke lead over Sweden’s Henrik Norlander and American Brandon Wu.
“I missed like a two-footer on my second hole for birdie,” Hadley said. “Hit a great approach shot in there and lipped out for eagle, and I went to tap it in and it horse-shoed on me.
“That can kind of unsettle you a little bit, but I was poised and ready, and I birdied the next hole, and I was dialed in after that.”
Changeable weather that saw the skies darken and wind come up briefly wasn’t a problem for Hadley, who said he “kind of did it all well” at the Country Club of Jackson.
“I felt like I was kind of clicking on all cylinders today,” said Hadley, who is in search of a second PGA Tour title to go with his 2014 Puerto Rico Open crown.
Norlander, seeking his first US Tour title, had five birdies before he chipped in for eagle at the par-five 14th.
Wu had seven birdies without a bogey, holing an 18-foot birdie at his final hole, the 9th, to grab his share of second place.
Bezuidenhout, Scotland’s Russell Knox and China’s Carl Yuan were among a group of seven players on 66.
Another 16 players were tied on 67, a group that included Van Rooyen and Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg – who played a key role in Europe’s victory over the United States in the Ryder Cup in Italy last weekend.
Aberg bounced back after a disappointing bogey at the par-five 3rd, notching six birdies to put himself in the hunt.
The 23-year-old said he’d been buoyed by the “really cool” response to his Ryder Cup performance – just months after he turned pro – from his peers in the game.
But he knew he’d need to conserve energy after the emotional high of the Ryder Cup and the long trip from Europe.
“Physically I feel fine, to be honest,” he said. “I thought it was going to be a little bit worse, to be fair, but I’m going to be tired. I’m going to have a quick dinner and make sure to get some rest. It’s an early morning tomorrow morning, as well, so I’ll make sure to try to conserve the energy as well as I can.”
© Agence France-Presse
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