(Reuters) - Kevin Kisner took advantage of home comforts and a receptive layout to maintain his sizzling early season form and surge one shot clear in Thursday’s opening round of the RSM Classic in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
The 31-year-old American, who came close to winning a maiden PGA Tour title at the elite WGC-HSBC Champions in China earlier this month before finishing second, fired a sparkling seven-under-par 65 on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club.
Kisner eagled the par-five eighth, his penultimate hole, to end the day one ahead of compatriots Jim Herman, Kyle Stanley, Kevin Chappell, Scott Stallings, Jeff Overton, Tom Hoge, Canadian David Hearn and South Korea’s Kim Si-woo.
Herman, Stanley, Chappell, Stallings and Kim all carded six-under 66s on the Plantation Course while Overton and Hoge returned six-under 64s on the Seaside Course.
Kisner, a runner-up four times on the PGA Tour without yet claiming a breakthrough victory, was delighted to make a fast start at a venue where he owns a vacation home.
“I probably haven’t put as much pressure on myself this week,” Kisner told Golf Channel after a round that also included five birdies. “It’s kind of a home game and we have a bunch of family and friends and we are just all hanging out.
“I haven’t really worked on it (his game) that much but that’s kind of when things go crazy and you play well so we’ll see what happens.”
Kisner, who was the 36-hole leader at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai before finishing two shots behind Scotland’s Russell Knox, feasted on a generous set-up at the Plantation Course.
“There were a lot of birdie opportunities and I was happy to cap it off (with eagle),” he said. “I could reach a couple of them (the par-fives in two) which always helps me.
“They set it up pretty easy for us, I felt like, with the inclement forecast tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow’s set-up at Seaside is OK with the big winds that are forecast.”
British Open champion Zach Johnson, the world number 10 who is the highest-ranked player in the field, opened with a two-under 70 on the Plantation layout.
Tournament host Davis Love III, who played with his 21-year-old son Dru on the Seaside Course, also carded 70, a score matched by his amateur son.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Larry Fine