Chris Kirk posted a bogey-free 8-under 63 to take a one-stroke lead over Ben Crane, Gary Woodland and Camilo Villegas of Colombia after one round of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba at El Camaleon Golf Club in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
The 31-year-old Kirk, who claimed the last of his four PGA Tour victories in the 2015 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, birdied four holes on each nine.
“I don’t think anybody’s comfort is really that high (on the challenging Greg Norman-designed course),” said Kirk, who opened the new season with two top-10 finishes before tying for 61st last week in Las Vegas. “I definitely drove the ball well today. Just trying to stick to my sort of go to shot and hit draws out there for the most part. It’s definitely intimidating off the tee a little bit, but thankfully I hit a lot of good ones today.
“I just played pretty terrible over the weekend in Vegas, but I think I was just a little bit tired. So thankfully, I came and took Monday and Tuesday completely off, and didn’t touch a club and just tried to relax. Now I feel kind of re-energized and ready to play again. No, I definitely wasn’t expecting to shoot 63 today, but happy I did.”
Villegas eagled the fifth hole and birdied three of the last six in his 64, while Woodland matched that with an eagle on the 13th and four birdies on his last six, and Crane was bogey-free in his 64.
Rookie Aaron Wise of Lake Elsinore, who won the NCAA individual title last year at Oregon, made a hole in one on the fourth hole and eagled the fifth en route to a 65 and was tied for fifth with Webb Simpson, Scott Piercy, Kevin Streelman, Nicholas Lindheim and Abraham Ancer of Mexico.
Defending champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland struggled to a 75 and was tied for 121st.