Los Angeles: Scott Piercy launched the US PGA Tour’s 2016-17 season with a bang on Thursday, firing a 10-under par 62 to take a two-shot lead early in the first round of the Safeway Open.
Piercy rolled in 12 birdies with two bogeys en route to a course record at the Silverado Resort in Napa, California.
“Oh man, I think I made more feet of putts than I did all last season,” the American said. “We’ve been working on the putter a lot and trying to get some things figured out. Today was a good start off to the season, a good start to give me some confidence with the putter.”
Piercy said it was the putter that let him down as he missed the Tour Championship - the finale of the 2015-16 season in September, as well as the Ryder Cup.
“I just missed getting to the Tour Championship, I ended up missing it by four strokes is what it comes down to,” Piercy said. “Being 150th on the stats last year in putting I think we can figure out where it came from.”
He’s hoping to continue his success on the greens and add to his three US PGA Tour titles, the last of which came at the 2015 Barbasol Championship.
His sparkling round, started at the 10th tee and including birdies seven birdies in his first 10 holes, gave him a two-shot lead over England’s Paul Casey and American Patton Kizzire.
Casey and Kizzire each had eight birdies without a bogey to share second on 64.
Casey missed just one green in regulation, but rolled in a 16-foot birdie putt from just off the green at the second hole.
“I’m looking at my year as a calendar year, rather than this wraparound season,” Casey said, explaining that he considers the week another chance to notch a victory in 2016.
Johnson Wagner and Kyle Stanley were in the clubhouse on 65, while Spain’s Jon Rahm joined Troy Merritt and Bill Haas on 66, buoyed by a hole in one at his second hole, the par-three 11th.
“It was a very special moment,” Rahm said of watching the seven-iron go in.
The early birdie festival at Silverado lent some excitement to a tournament that threatened to fall flat when 14-time major champion Tiger Woods pulled out on Monday.
Woods had been expecting to make his much anticipated return to competition after a 14-month injury layoff in the wake of multiple back surgeries.
On Monday the former world number one, who will turn 41 in December, revised his plans to play in Napa and in next month’s Turkish Airlines Open.
“After a lot of soul-searching and honest reflection, I know that I am not yet ready to play on the PGA Tour or compete in Turkey,” Woods said. “My health is good, and I feel strong, but my game is vulnerable and not where it needs to be.”
Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, who would have played alongside Woods over the first two rounds, was seven off the pace and tied for 22nd.
Leading first-round scores on Thursday in the US PGA Tour Safeway Open in Napa, California (USA unless noted):
62 - Scott Piercy
64 - Paul Casey (ENG), Patton Kizzire
65 - Johnson Wagner, Kyle Stanley
66 - Jon Rahm (ESP), Troy Merritt, Bill Haas
67 - Martin Laird (SCO), Noh Seung-Yul (KOR), Brendan Steele, Cody Gribble, Peter Malnati, Hudson Swafford
68 - Derek Fathauer, Brian Campbell, Jon Curran, Patrick Rodgers, Tag Ridings, J.J. Henry, Julian Etulain (ARG)