(Reuters) - Brian Harman took advantage of home comforts, ideal weather and a red-hot putter as he charged into a share of the lead in Thursday’s opening round of the $5.6 million McGladrey Classic at Sea Island in Georgia.
The diminutive American left-hander, who won his first PGA Tour title at the John Deere Classic in July, mixed six birdies with a lone bogey on the way to a sparkling five-under-par 65 in the third event of the 2014-15 season.
Harman birdied four of his last seven holes on the Seaside Course to end the day level with compatriots Michael Thompson, Will MacKenzie and double heart-transplant recipient Erik Compton.
Pencil-slim American Chesson Hadley, the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year for the 2013-14 season, was among a group of eight players who opened with 66s.
Harman, born in nearby Savannah and a resident at Sea Island, rebounded strongly from a bogey on his fifth hole of the day, the par-four 14th, to surge into a four-way tie at the top of the leaderboard.
“I got off to a little bit of a shaky start but finally figured it out and made some good swings, made some putts and felt really good,” the 27-year-old told Golf Channel.
The short five-minute commute from his home to the golf course was another huge bonus for Harman.
“It’s great,” he smiled. “It’s the only tournament of the year I get to sleep in my own bed. I‘m fortunate to be lucky enough to live down here and even more fortunate to have a tournament in my back yard.”
Thompson, like Harman, flourished on the ultra-smooth greens at Sea Island.
”My putter was hot today,“ said the 29-year-old from Arizona whose only PGA Tour victory came at the 2013 Honda Classic. ”I put in some good work the past couple of days on the green ... and my speed was awesome today.
“When that happens, it’s fun to play golf because you’re making putts. I just had a few lucky breaks which kept me in it, because I hit some wayward shots today but it was a good day of golf.”
American world number nine Matt Kuchar, the highest-ranked player in the field, opened with a 67 while tournament host Davis Love III, who has won 20 times on the PGA Tour, carded a 71.
Fellow American Chris Kirk, who won last year’s McGladrey Classic by one shot, launched his title defense with a bogey-free 68.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue