Knoxville, TN – Two-time winner this season Michael Putnam and Tim Wilkinson shot matching 6-under 65s on Thursday to share the lead at the end of the first round of the News Sentinel Open.
If Putnam is to go on and win this event, he will automatically get a promotion to the PGA Tour.
"I had the same strategy today that I've had every year I've been here," said Putnam. "I'm hitting the same clubs and leaving myself with the same distances. I've learned the course over the years."
Monday qualifier Blayne Barber, Nate Smith and Byron Smith each carded a 5- under 66 to sit in a share of third place.
Sejun Yoon, who also qualified for this event on Monday, sits in a large group of players tied for sixth at 4-under 67. Putnam's brother, Andrew, is among those players tied with Yoon.
Putnam started on the back nine and opened with a bogey at the 10th, but quickly found his form with four birdies over his next six holes to make the turn at 3-under.
He added a pair of gains at the second and third, and later snapped a streak of five straight pars with a 3-foot birdie putt at the last to grab the early clubhouse lead.
"After (the 10th) hole, I played flawless golf," Putnam said.
Wilkinson went out later in the afternoon and quickly got on the board with a birdie at the first.
After parring his next four holes, he poured in birdies at the sixth and eighth around a bogey at the seventh to make the turn at 2-under.
He picked up another shot at the 12th before recording three straight birdies from the 15th to meet Putnam at 6-under. The Australian closed with a par at the last to remain there.
"I missed one green today, and I missed only two fairways. That made it pretty easy today," stated Wilkinson.
Nate Smith recorded five birdies during his bogey-free round, while Barber countered his lone bogey with six birdies and Byron Smith recorded eight birdies and three bogeys during his up-and-down round.
NOTES: Putnam is making his sixth appearance in the tournament and his 65 set a career low at this event ... Wilkinson has five top-10 finishes this season ... Yoon is making his Web.com Tour debut. He has played four PGA Tour Canada events this season, making one cut ... No player in the 24 previous News Sentinel Opens has shot an over-par opening round and gone on to win.