Fowler, who opted to miss last week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, carded eight birdies in a flawless opening 64 at the Golf Club of Houston to enjoy a three-shot lead over fellow Americans Keegan Bradley and Vaughn Taylor.
The 28-year-old finished in the top five in all four majors in 2014, but is yet to win one of golf’s majors and missed the cut at Augusta National last year after rounds of 80 and 73.
However, the four-time PGA Tour winner — whose last success came in the Honda Classic in February — looks to be in far better form in 2017 and finished off his round in style with a birdie on the 238-yard ninth, his closing hole. “The reason last week that I wanted to be off (was to) get some down-time rest,” Fowler told PGA Tour.
“It was nice to have the week off to kind of relax, recharge a bit, and I love playing here. I like playing my way in the majors and they’ve been able to do a great job here with conditions around the greens and making it similar as possible to next week. Just getting ready makes things a lot easier when you go tee it up Thursday next week.”
Three-time Masters champion Phil Mickelson had to settle for a level-par 72 after carding three birdies and three bogeys, with England’s Chris Wood and Andrew Johnston both shooting 73.