Brendan Steele charged one stroke clear after the opening round of the Frys.com Open on Thursday (October 15), though golfing heavyweights Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose were among those in hot pursuit.
American Steele took advantage of near-perfect conditions at a sun-splashed Silverado Country Club in Napa, California, firing a brilliant nine-under-par 63 on the North Course to rocket to the top of the leaderboard.
Steele, whose only PGA Tour victory came at the 2011 Texas Open, birdied seven of his last eight holes for a red-hot homeward nine of seven-under 29 to set a sizzling pace in the season-opening event on the U.S. circuit`s 2015-16 schedule.
Venezuela`s Jhonattan Vegas carded a 64 while American rookie Harold Varner III and Britain`s Martin Laird returned 65s but Steele will certainly be keeping a wary eye on world number seven Rose (67) and third-ranked McIlroy (68).
Englishman Rose, who won his first major title at the 2013 U.S. Open, mixed six birdies with a lone bogey to vault up the leaderboard.
McIlroy, making his first trip to the idyllic wine country of California`s Napa Valley, bogeyed his fourth hole of the day before rebounding with five birdies to climb into contention.
A notable absentee this week is last year`s winner, Bae Sang-moon, due to a requirement for him to complete two years of military service in his native South Korea.