Rio Grande, Puerto Rico – Rio Grande, PR (SportsNetwork.com) - Brian Stuard fired a 6-under 66 on Thursday to grab a 1-stroke lead after the opening round of the Puerto Rico Open.
Stuard, who is winless on the PGA Tour, had three straight top-6 finishes earlier in this season's new wrap-around schedule. He finished second at Mayakoba in November, then took sixth and fifth in his first two starts of 2014. He had four rounds in the 60s at this event last year and shared fourth.
Jason Gore and former U.S. Amateur winner Danny Lee share second place at minus-5 at Trump International Golf Club.
Y.E. Yang, the 2009 PGA Championship winner, was joined in fourth place by Tim Petrovic, Ricky Barnes, Eric Axley, William McGirt, Ben Martin and Chesson Hadley. Of that group, Petrovic and Axley are former PGA Tour winners.
Stuard started on the back nine and got off to a flying start. He poured in three straight birdies chances from the 11th. Stuard also birdied the par-5 15th to move to minus-4.
After a pair of pars, Stuard ended his opening nine with a birdie on the 18th. Around the turn, he carded back-to-back birdies at two and three to climb to minus-7.
Stuard parred three in a row before dropping a shot on the seventh. He closed with a pair of pars to end at minus-6.
"The wind is blowing pretty good out there, so I hit some good shots. I kept it in play nice off the tee, didn't get in much trouble, and only made the one bogey," stated Stuard. "I've just been playing pretty solid. I putted really good to start off the year and then kind of last few weeks not quite as good and then good today."
Gore, the 2005 84 Lumber Classic winner, started with four consecutive pars. He birdied the fifth and seventh before running off four more pars in a row.
On the back nine, Gore move to minus-3 with a birdie on the 12th. He birdied the par-5 15th and followed with another birdie at 16 to get within one of the lead.
Lee, who has missed six straight cuts on the PGA Tour, birdied the second and fifth, but dropped a shot on the sixth. He erased that mistake with a birdie on the par-3 eighth.
The 23-year-old converted a birdie try on the 11th. Lee moved into a share of second with birdies at 15 and 18, both par-5s.
"It wasn't easy out there. It was very windy and there's some tough pin placements out there, but I played very smart today and I hit it where I wanted to hit it, and I rolled it really nicely with the putter," Lee said. "It was a really good day for me."
NOTES: Stuard leads after one round for the first time in his PGA Tour career ... Defending champion Scott Brown opened with a 2-under 70 and is tied for 32nd.