OAKVILLE, Canada (AFP) – Brendan Steele carded eight birdies in a seven-under-par 65 to seize the first-round lead in the US PGA Tour's Canadian Open.
The 30-year-old Californian needed just 28 putts on the par-72 Glen Abbey course, and held a one-stroke lead over Australian Scott Gardiner and Americans Scott Brown and Matt Kuchar.
"Overall, it was a good day," said Steele, who made the most of perfect early scoring conditions as he hit nine of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation.
"I hit a lot of good shots and was able to hole a lot of putts. I also didn't miss many greens or hit many shots off line, and I was able to roll a few putts in," added Steele, who claimed his only US PGA Tour title to date at San Antonio in 2011.
Kuchar's round included an eagle at the par-five 18th, his ninth hole of the day. After making the turn at five-under, Kuchar added back-to-back birdies at the second and third, but he ran into trouble at the par-four sixth.
"Six is a hard hole," Kuchar said. "The rough can be really penalizing. I hit my drive into the left rough. I had a good lie and was able to get it to the green, but I caught a flier and it ran through the green and into the crowd, into some trampled down, matted-down rough, which is difficult in figuring out the grain and how the ball is going to come out.
"I hit a poor chip that didn't even get to the green. There was more rough and more grain than I had accounted for and it came up short."
Gardiner's seven birdies included a scorching run of six in a row starting at the par-five second. He nabbed his last birdie of the day at the par-five 15th, but gave a stroke back with a bogey at the par-five 16th.
Brown grabbed his share of second with a bogey-free effort that included six birdies.
Sweden's David Lingmerth and American Hunter Mahan shared fifth place on five-under 67, with another nine players -- including former Masters champions Trevor Immelman and Bubba Watson -- tied on 68.
Another big group on 69 included Brad Fritsch, one of the home-grown players trying to end the 59-year drought for Canadian golfers in their national open.
"I felt like I played really well today," Fritsch said. "I felt like I drove it great. I think I hit less than 50 percent of the fairways, but I think that's just the nature of this golf course."
Fritsch's effort left him tied for 16th, with David Hearn the next-best Canadian in a group on 70.