Germany’s Alex Cejka gave the Verizon Heritage field a low score to aim at as he took the early clubhouse lead at Harbour Town Golf Links.
As the PGA Tour resumed following last weekend’s Masters, Cejka shot a bogey-free seven-under-par opening round of 64 on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina to lead by one stroke from American Lee Janzen, who fired a 65.
Two-time US Open champion Janzen posted an inward nine of 31 having started on the 10th tee for only his fourth sub-70 round of the year.
South Africa’s Trevor Immelman failed to successfully defend his Masters title at Augusta National but put disappointing early-season form behind him to finish in a tie for 20th in the opening major of the year.
That good form continued at Harbour Town where, despite closing with a bogey five on the ninth hole, Immelman shot a four-under 66.
Americans Ted Purdy and Brian Gay finished a further shot back on three under, four strokes behind Cejka following 67s, with Charlie Wi of Korea on the same mark having played seven holes of his opening round.
Rod Pampling, Aron Price and Stephen Leaney led the Australian charge at three under. Pampling posted a 68, as did American Bill Haas, with Price playing the last and Leaney at his eighth hole.
England’s Greg Owen, playing the sixth, was among a group also including Jim Furyk of the USA on two under while Sweden’s Daniel Chopra, Australian Nick O’Hern, Tim Clark of South Africa, Camilo Villegas of Colombia and American Zach Johnson and were part of a big logjam on one under, the latter two in the clubhouse with 70s.
US Ryder Cup star Boo Weekley, chasing a third successive win in the tournament, got his title defence off to a slow start with a bogey at the 10th before getting back on track with a birdie at his second hole, and the defending champion was level par after four holes.
Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal and Ernie Els of South Africa were at level par after five and two holes respectively but Ireland’s Rory McIlroy finished with a one-over-par 72 and English duo Luke Donald and Paul Casey each shot 73s.
Carl Pettersson also shot two over while fellow Swede Fredrik Jacobson slumped to a 76 and Martin Laird of Scotland a 77.