Brandt Snedeker fired an eight-under 63 that included a sizzling stretch of seven straight birdies on Thursday to grab a one-shot lead after the first round of the BMW Championship.
Snedeker defied gusty winds on the par-71 Conway Farms Golf Club course — hosting a PGA Tour event for the first time — and held a one-stroke lead over fellow American Zach Johnson.
Johnson, a two-time winner this year, had seven birdies in a flawless seven-under 64 and was two strokes in front of world No. 1 Tiger Woods, former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, Steve Stricker and Kevin Streelman.
Reigning Masters champ Adam Scott of Australia posted a four-under 67 and shared seventh place with John Merrick, Ryan Moore and Nick Watney.
Snedeker opened on the back nine and his run of seven straight birdies began at hole 13.
“One of those days where everything seemed to go right in the middle of the round,” Snedeker said.
The American came into the penultimate event in the US tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs ranked ninth in the standings and already in line to become the first player to return to the Tour Championship the year after winning the playoffs crown and its US$10 million bonus.
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who shot to the top of the playoff standings with his win at the Deutsche Bank Championship two weeks ago, carded a one-over 72.
Woods, who came into the week at second in the playoff race, said his score could have been better but for a trio of missed putts from within five feet — two of them leading to bogeys.
“I’m not exactly real happy,” said Woods, who had seven birdies to go with his two bogeys. “I played well and I just didn’t get much out of that round.”
Woods failed to birdie any of the three par-fives, although he finished on a good note with a long birdie putt at the par-four ninth, his final hole of the day.
“One of those days,” Woods said.
Defending champion Rory McIlroy, who won this title last year at Crooked Stick, struggled to a seven-over 78 and was tied for 66th place.
His card included a triple-bogey seven at the par-four first hole — his 10th hole of the day — and a double-bogey five at the par-three 11th.
McIlroy, who came into the tournament at 41st in the playoff standings, needs a big turnaround to reach the top 30 and advance to the Tour Championship.
AP, ZANDVOORT, Netherlands
Nearly two decades after winning this tournament for the first time, Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain took the lead on the opening day of the KLM Open on Thursday, taking advantage of relatively benign conditions to shoot a six-under 64.
The 1994 champion, Jimenez had two bogeys and eight birdies, including holing a wedge from 40m at the 16th for birdie followed by another birdie on the 18th to give him the outright lead at the Kennemer Golf and Country Club.
Jimenez, the oldest player in the field at 49, said he would like to add another Spanish name to the trophy come tomorrow.
“Seve’s first win on the European Tour was here in 1976, and Jose Maria [Olazabal] also won here in 1989, so hopefully I can win here, too. That would be fantastic,” he said.
Robert Allenby and Gary Orr were among a group of six players one back on five under on the Dutch North Sea coast.