Brendan Steele carded eight birdies in a seven-under-par 65 on Thursday to seize the first-round lead in the US PGA Tour’s Canadian Open.
The 30-year-old Californian needed just 28 putts on the par-72 Glen Abbey course, and held a one-stroke lead over Australian Scott Gardiner and Americans Scott Brown and Matt Kuchar.
“Overall, it was a good day,” said Steele, who made the most of perfect early scoring conditions as he hit nine of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation.
“I hit a lot of good shots and was able to hole a lot of putts. I also didn’t miss many greens or hit many shots off line, and I was able to roll a few putts in,” added Steele, who claimed his only US PGA Tour title to date at San Antonio in 2011.
Kuchar’s round included an eagle at the par-five 18th, his ninth hole of the day. After making the turn at five-under, Kuchar added back-to-back birdies at the second and third, but he ran into trouble at the par-four sixth.
“Six is a hard hole,” Kuchar said. “The rough can be really penalizing. I hit my drive into the left rough. I had a good lie and was able to get it to the green, but I caught a flier and it ran through the green and into the crowd, into some trampled down, matted-down rough, which is difficult in figuring out the grain and how the ball is going to come out.”
“I hit a poor chip that didn’t even get to the green. There was more rough and more grain than I had accounted for and it came up short,” he said.
Gardiner’s seven birdies included a scorching run of six in a row starting at the par-five second. He nabbed his last birdie of the day at the par-five 15th, but gave a stroke back with a bogey at the par-five 16th.
Brown grabbed his share of second with a bogey-free effort that included six birdies.
Sweden’s David Lingmerth and American Hunter Mahan shared fifth place on five-under 67, with another nine players — including former Masters champions Trevor Immelman and Bubba Watson — tied on 68.
Another big group on 69 included Brad Fritsch, one of the home-grown players trying to end the 59-year drought for Canadian golfers in their national open.
“I felt like I played really well today,” Fritsch said. “I felt like I drove it great. I think I hit less than 50 percent of the fairways, but I think that’s just the nature of this golf course.”
Fritsch’s effort left him tied for 16th, with David Hearn the next-best Canadian in a group on 70.
Pat Fletcher, born in England, was the last Canadian winner, taking the 1954 event at Point Grey in Vancouver. Carl Keffer is the only Canadian-born champion, winning in 1909 and 1914. Albert Murray, a Canadian also born in England, won in 1908 and 1913.
China’s Liang Wenchong hit a five-under par 67 to grab a share of the lead after the Russian Open first round on Thursday.
Liang, whose only European Tour title came six years ago in Singapore, carded six birdies against one bogey as he continued the form that took him to third place finishes in Austria and India this season.
“I played really nicely today and hit the ball in very close to a lot of pins so had some fairly easy birdies,” Liang said.
“It is a very beautiful course and that stretch of three holes from 11 to 13 are just so beautiful. They are three of the best holes we will play on Tour this year,” he said.