St. Simons Island, Ga. — Chris Kirk holed an 18-foot putt for eagle on his final hole for a 9-under 63 and a one-shot lead Thursday in the RSM Classic.
Kirk played the par 5s on the Plantation Course at Sea Island Golf Club in 5 under.
“I kind of hit my putter on the fringe a little bit and I wasn’t sure it was going to get there, but that was just kind of the day that it was,” Kirk said. “Even when I thought it wasn’t quite going to work out, it still went in the middle of the hole.”
The seven lowest scores of the opening round came on the Plantation Course during a picturesque afternoon on the Golden Isles. Sporting a University of Georgia hat Thursday, Kirk won at Sea Island four years ago for the second of his four PGA Tour victories.
“It’s a big Georgia territory out here on St. Simons,” Kirk said. “Hopefully, my hat will bring me some luck the rest of the week.”
The tournament is the final PGA Tour event of the calendar year, and Kirk is sorting out equipment changes.
“I’m still trying to get it all worked out and figure out what I want to do going forward,” Kirk said. “But keep shooting 9 under, so I won’t have to worry about it too much.”
Joel Dahmen had a 64.
“I think it played a little easier today,” Dahmen said. “The wind was down, greens were a little softer over here on the Plantation side. But just kept the ball in front of me and made a bunch of 8- to 10-footers.
“I’ve been rolling it pretty good,” Swafford said. “Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don’t have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.”
Sea Island resident Hudson Swafford was at 65 at the Plantation along with Jason Kokrak and Brian Gay.
“I feel like I’ve been rolling it pretty good,” Swafford said. “Took some time off, which was nice, after China. I was kind of frustrated with the golf a little bit. Took a little time off and got back into it. Something just kind of started clicking, but knew I don’t have to be crazy aggressive and just give myself a chance.”
He played alongside fellow former Georgia players Bubba Watson and Brian Harman.
“We are right in the heart of Dawgs’ territory, mine and Harman’s backyard, so it’s kind of nice,” Swafford said.
Though, his caddie wore an Auburn shirt.
“We don’t need to talk about that,” said Swafford, not needing to be reminded that Auburn beat Georgia in football last week.
Nick Watney and Brice Garnett each had a 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course, which will be used for the final two rounds.
Brandt Snedeker opened with a 67 in his return from a sternum injury that sidelined him since the Travelers in June.
Harman shot 69, and Watson had a 71.
At Naples, Florida, LPGA rookie Sung Hyun Park took a big first step toward sweeping all the season awards with a 5-under 67 to finish one shot behind after the opening round of the CME Group Tour Championship.
Peiyun Chien of Taiwan and Sarah Jane Smith both shot 66 on a breezy day at Tiburon Golf Club. Neither has a chance at the $1 million bonus this week.
Of the leading five players for the CME Race to the Globe, Park got off to the best start. She saved par after two poor shots on the par-5 14th with a short iron, and then added a pair of birdies late in her round.
Shanshan Feng, in her debut at No. 1 in the world, had a 70.
Lexi Thompson, who leads the CME Race to the Globe, hit her opening tee shot into a hazard and her day never got much better. She opened with a 71.
Justin Rose made the best start of the three players looking to become Europe’s top player for 2017 at the season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai with a 6-under 66 at Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
An eagle from the greenside bunker on the 14th hole and a stunning approach shot to two feet for birdie on the 18th handed the Englishman the early initiative in his attempt to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai crown.
The other two players in contention for the crown — leader Tommy Fleetwood and reigning Masters champion Sergio Garcia — opened with rounds of 73 and 70, respectively.
Patrick Reed of the United States was the first-round leader after shooting 7-under 65.