California: India`s Anirban Lahiri launched his first season as a US PGA Tour member with confidence on Thursday, firing an eight-under par 64 to join a four-way tie for the first-round lead at La Quinta, California.
Lahiri found 11 of 14 fairways and all 18 greens in regulation as he piled up eight birdies on the La Quinta Country Club course, one of three par-72 layouts used over the first three rounds of the $5.8 million CareerBuilder Challenge in the California desert.
He was joined atop the leaderboard by 49-year-old Jerry Kelly, who also played La Quinta, and by Jason Dufner and Jeff Overton, who both played at the Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course.
Dufner drained a 20-foot putt at his final hole to join the leading group with his eighth birdie of the day. Four of his birdies came in his last six holes as he vies for his first official tour win since the 2013 PGA Championship.
Lahiri`s eight birdies included three in a row at 11-13.
"I kept it in play all day and I think that`s pretty neat to do around a course like La Quinta," said the 28-year-old. "I`m pretty happy with the way I hit it off the tee and didn`t miss a green -- so that usually does it for you."
Lahiri earned his US tour card via the Web.com developmental tour last season.
But he has travelled the world playing top-flight golf. His 18 international victories include winning twice in three weeks last February on the European Tour, and last year he became the first Indian to play for the Internationals in a Presidents Cup.
"I`m really excited," he said of tackling a full US tour season. "I`ve been wanting to come out and play here for a while now. I`m going to take whatever opportunities come my way."
The leading group were one stroke in front of Colt Knost and Jamie Lovemark, while defending champion Bill Haas was in a group of 11 players on 66.
A group of 13 players shared 18th place on 67.
Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, making his first competitive start since September, delighted his legion of fans by holing out for an eagle at La Quinta`s par-four eighth.
"It was a fun start to the year," Mickelson said after signing for a 68. "I`ve had a lot of time off. It was fun to get back in the swing of it. We had a beautiful day here, the weather was spectacular and the golf course was great. I had a good, solid round. It was a good way to start."