Raleigh, NC – Jim Renner fired an eight-under 63 on Thursday to grab a two-stroke lead after the opening round of the Rex Hospital Open.
It was easily Renner's best round of the year as he has missed the cut in six of his nine starts. His best previous score this season was an opening-round 65 at the BMW Charity Pro-Am, where he tied for 33rd.
"My game has been coming around. I played good in the first round at the BMW two weeks ago," Renner stated. "I was right there, but just didn't play good on the weekend. This one was nice and stress-free."
Shane Bertsch carded a six-under 65 and was joined in second place by Steven Bowditch, Reid Edstrom and Jeff Curl.
Justin Hicks, Scott Gardiner, B.J. Staten and Corey Nagy are one stroke further back at minus-five at TPC Wakefield Plantation.
Renner went out in the middle of the morning wave and did all of his scoring in the middle 14 holes. After a pair of pars to start his round, he birdied the third and sixth.
The 28-year-old converted a birdie effort on the eighth and came back with birdies on nine and 10 to climb to five-under.
Renner ran home a birdie chance at the 13th and made it two in a row with a birdie on No. 14. He carded his final birdie of the day at the par-three 16th before escaping with par at the last after driving behind a tree.
"I know my game is right there. The goal out here is to win and put yourself in position to win. It's tough," said Renner. "This game can be exhausting. Sometimes you wonder when it's going to turn around. I've stayed pretty patient."
Curl had three birdies on both nines for his 65. It was also his low round of the year as he tries to comeback from a myriad of injuries.
"It's been a struggle. I'm living proof that your body starts breaking down after you turn 30," joked Curl, who has fought through two shoulder surgeries, five cracked vertebrae, torn ligaments in his ankle and had five cortisone shots in his left knee in the last three years.
Bertsch traded a bogey for a birdie from the third, then poured in six birdies in a seven-hole span from the ninth to jump into a share of second.
Edstrom started on 10 and birdied two of his first four holes. After five straight pars, he birdied three of the next four to move to five-under. Edstrom tripped to a bogey on six, but birdied eight and nine to post 65.
Bowditch birdied the 10th to start his round, then parred the next eight holes. His front nine included an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys.
NOTES: Defending champion Kyle Thompson mixed six birdies and five bogeys in an opening-round 70, which left him tied for 50th. Thompson could become the first player in Nationwide Tour history to successfully defend a title, and also become the first to win the same tournament three times, as he also titled at this event in 2007...There are four other former winners in the field with Brendan Pappas and Scott Gutschewski matching Thompson's 70...Tour money leader Luke List stumbled to a two-over 73 and is tied for 119th.