(Reuters) - American Ryan Palmer took advantage of ideal scoring conditions and local knowledge with a birdie fest as he charged into an early two-shot lead in Thursday’s opening round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas.
The 36-year-old Texan piled up eight birdies on the way to a flawless eight-under-par 62 on a relatively calm morning at iconic Colonial Country Club, matching the lowest first round ever recorded at the long established PGA Tour event.
Palmer, who began his round at the par-four 10th and ended it with a five-foot birdie putt at the ninth, surged two ahead of compatriot Morgan Hoffmann, a rookie on the U.S. circuit who tied for fifth at last week’s Byron Nelson Championship.
“I drove it almost perfect today,” Colonial club member Palmer told Golf Channel after matching the 62s previously posted in the tournament’s opening round by Patrick Sheehan (in 2005), David Toms (2011) and Chez Reavie (2011).
“I hit the driver really well and when I got out of position, I hit some good shots. If you’re going to hit driver a lot, you’d better hit it straight and on a lot of these holes I was able to do that today.
“When I hit it within five or six feet, I made the putt. I had a great day of putting and drove it really good.”
A three-times winner on the PGA Tour whose most recent victory came at the 2010 Sony Open in Hawaii, Palmer kickstarted his round at the par-four 14th with the first of four consecutive birdies.
“I made about a 15, 20-footer on 14 which got me going and then I hit it close coming in,” he said after making five of his eight birdies from no more than seven feet.
“Then I made some good birdies on the front nine, my back nine. It’s a golf course that I am just comfortable on. I play here numerous times.”
World number 13 Matt Kuchar, the highest-ranked player in this week’s field, opened with a 65 to end the round level with fellow Americans Daniel Summerhays, Matt Every and Tommy Gainey.
Defending champion Zach Johnson, who beat fellow American Jason Dufner by one shot to clinch last year’s title, opened with a 69 while Dufner returned a six-birdie 67.
Former Masters champions Charl Schwartzel of South Africa and Angel Cabrera of Argentina were among the day’s late starters.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue