Rickie Fowler was very aware of the possibility of a record round at Colonial when he got to his last hole.
One mishit prevented that from happening, and kept him from even sharing the first-round lead. Fowler's approach from 125 yards away hit the No. 9 green and spun back in the water, leading to a closing double-bogey 6.
Despite that very visible miscue, Fowler finished with an opening 63 Thursday that included an eagle and eight birdies. He had a 29 over his final nine holes — the front side at Hogan's Alley.
"It's not always fun to finish with a double (bogey). ... It's a sorry way to finish," Fowler said. "A 29 with a double is not too bad. ... I'm excited to be playing well this week and kind of draw off the good out there today. A 63 to start off with is pretty awesome."
And good enough to leave the 22-year-old Fowler, the PGA Tour's top rookie last season, a stroke behind co-leaders David Toms and Chez Reavie. Their bogey-free rounds matched the lowest 18-hole scores on the PGA Tour this season, and were the best for an opening round.
Toms, twice Fowler's age, quickly rebounded from his disappointing near-miss last week in a playoff at The Players Championship with his best scoring round in more than five years.
"This round certainly helps me get past what happened last week at the end," Toms said.
His start at Hogan's Alley was his best score in 429 rounds — since a career-best 61 at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January 2006. That was the last of his 12 PGA Tour victories, and at the end of a stretch of eight years when he finished the season ranked 11th or better six times, including three times in the top five.
Reavie, who needs a big payday soon to maintain his full PGA Tour exemption for the rest of this season, bettered his career-best round by two strokes.
Brendon de Jonge, Stewart Cink, Brian Gay, Nathan Green and Charlie Wi each shot 64s, a stroke better than Rod Pampling, Mark Wilson and John Senden. Of the top 11 scorers in the first round, Wi was the only who played in the afternoon — when more wind made conditions tougher.
Fowler got to the 407-yard ninth hole at 9 under, needing only a par to match the Colonial record round shared by six players. A birdie, and it was his.
He was 8 under over his previous eight-hole stretch before his final tee shot landed left of a bunker in the rough. He still had a decent lie for his approach shot.
"I was ultimately trying to hit it past the hole. I should have been trying to play it 3, 4, 5 yards further," Fowler said. "It's pin high just a little left, it had water over there. To walk away with a double, it's a little bit rough to finish the round that way. But I was playing well and putting the ball well."
Especially the second half of his round.
Fowler had a three-putt bogey from 6½ feet at the par-3 16th before a birdie at No. 17 that got him to 1 under halfway through his round. He then got on a roll after making a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-5 first hole.
Toms shot 31s on both nines, starting on the back and wrapping up both sides with long birdie putts. His 27-foot putt at No. 18 started a stretch of three consecutive birdies, and he punctuated his round with a 29-foot birdie putt on the ninth hole.
Four days earlier, Toms forced a playoff with K.J. Choi at TPC Sawgrass with a rare birdie at the 18th hole. But Toms then missed a short par putt at the famed No. 17 island hole that would have extended play.
While an impressive rebound round for Toms, it will take more than that to fully satisfy Toms. He wants to prove to himself that he can win again.
"I had times back in the early 2000s where I won by a bunch. You know, played with the lead a lot of times and was able to maintain it and increase that. Until I'm able to do that again, I'll still have that doubt," Toms said. "But I do feel good about my game certainly. I'll just keep plugging along, maybe get one here sometime soon."
Reavie, playing on a major medical exemption after reconstructive right knee surgery last season, needs to win for a much different reason. To keep his full PGA Tour exemption for the rest of this season, Reavie has to make at least $464,707 over this and his next two tournaments. If he is still among the top three at the end of play Sunday, he will make at least $421,600.
"I had knee surgery and missed nine months, so it's just great to be out there," Reavie said. "It swells up some, but it's not from the golf. It's from the walking. I wake up the next day and feel great. It's much better than it was."