Sao Paulo, Brazil – Richard S. Johnson, Danny Lee and Tom Hoge all carded 6-under 65s on Thursday to share the lead after the first round of the inaugural Brasil Classic.
Johnson, a winner on the PGA Tour at the 2008 U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, picked up six birdies during his bogey-free round and grabbed the early clubhouse lead. Later, Lee and Hoge both birdied their second-to-last hole at Sao Paulo Golf Club to reach minus-6.
Carlos Franco, who won the U.S. Bank Championship in 1994 and 2004, fired a first-round 66. The four-time PGA Tour winner is tied with Brazilian Rafael Barcellos, Kelly Kraft, Lee Bedford and Zack Miller at 5-under.
"I've played here a lot," said Franco, who won the 2001 Brazil Open on this same track. "I know this golf course."
Barcellos' countrymen Alexandre Rocha, Erik Andersson and Philippe Gasnier are part of large group tied at 4-under, while two-time PGA Tour winner Len Mattiace is 3-under.
Kevin Foley, the only 2013 Web.com Tour winner in the field, stumbled to an 80.
Johnson began his round with the morning wave and got off to a scorching start with three birdies in as many holes. He picked up another birdie on the fifth to hit the turn at 4-under, then birdied again on Nos. 10 and 12. A closing stretch of six straight pars ensured Johnson the clubhouse lead.
Lee was the next of the eventual leaders to tee off, going out in the afternoon and notching three birdies in his first four holes. A birdie on the seventh allowed the South Korean to make the turn at minus-4 and another birdie on the 13th cut Johnson's margin to a single shot.
Lee then picked up a stroke on the par-5 17th and ended with a par to finish 18 holes with a share of the lead.
Hoge began his round on the 10th tee and birdied the 11th before closing his outward nine with a hat trick of birdies. Around the turn, he picked up another shot on the first, then turned the trick again on the eighth to reach minus-6.
Andersson was 6-under through 13 holes, but he fell from the top spot with back-to-back bogeys beginning at the 14th.
NOTES: Foley won the season-opening Panama Claro Championship. He is currently fourth on the money list and can take over the top spot from Edward Loar with at least a second-place finish ... Shaun Micheel, the only former major champion in the field (2003 PGA Championship), shot a 70 ... This is the third trip to South America for the Web.com Tour this season. Patrick Cantlay captured the Colombia Championship and Kevin Kisner won the Chile Classic ... The Web.com Tour travels to Texas next week for the WNB Golf Classic at Midland Country Club, where Luke Guthrie won the 2012 tournament.