(Reuters) - Patrick Rodgers, one of the most exciting prospects in the game, continued his impressive start to the 2015-16 PGA Tour by charging into contention at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas on Thursday.
The 23-year-old American, who tied for sixth place in the season-opening Frys.com Open last week, took advantage of the customary low-scoring conditions in the Nevada desert as he fired a sparkling six-under-par 65 in the opening round.
With barely a breath of wind at the TPC Summerlin, Rodgers added six birdies and two bogeys to an eagle at the par-five ninth to finish one stroke off the early lead set by compatriots Mark Hubbard and Michael Thompson, and Canada’s David Hearn.
Thirteen players were still out on the course when play was abandoned for the day in fading light. Of those, American journeyman Tyler Aldridge was the best placed at seven under with two holes remaining.
“It was nice to be the first off, the greens were perfect,” Rodgers told reporters after teeing off in the first group of the day and storming to the turn in a sizzling five-under 30.
“I felt really comfortable and was able to roll in a few putts, especially there on that front nine. I definitely wasn’t at my sharpest on the back but all in all a very good start.”
Level with Rodgers at six under were nine other players including Japan’s Ryo Ishikawa, South Korean D.H. Lee, Englishman Greg Owen and Americans Chad Campbell, Ricky Barnes, Ryan Palmer and Brendon Todd.
Sweden’s Henrik Norlander was also at six under through 16 when play was abandoned.
Rodgers, whose best PGA Tour finish was a tie for second at this year’s Wells Fargo Championship, felt he had also benefited from an eight-week break from competitive golf before starting the new season at the Frys.com Open in Napa, California.
“I made the most of my time off,” said Rodgers, who was an outstanding amateur golfer at Stanford University where he won 11 times to match a record set by Tiger Woods.
“I felt really prepared last week, and I’m going to try to use to that my advantage this fall.”
Rodgers made 12 of 17 cuts as a non-member on the 2014-15 PGA Tour, including two top-10s, before finishing in the top 125 in the FedExCup standings to secure his card for this season.
American world number five Rickie Fowler, the highest-ranked player in the field, hit his tee shot into water at the par-three 17th on the way to a double-bogey and an opening round of 72.
His compatriot Ben Martin, who clinched his first PGA Tour victory at last year’s Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, launched his title defense with a 70.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue/Greg Stutchbury