White Sulphur Springs - Jonas Blixt got his Greenbrier Classic title defense off to a hot start on Thursday, firing a six-under-par 64 to grab a one-stroke first-round lead.
The Swede, seeking his first win since his triumph last year in this $6.5 million US PGA Tour event, teed off on the 10th on the Old White course in West Virginia and had eight birdies - including four in a row at 16, 17, 18 and one.
It was a welcome change from his recent fortunes. The 30-year-old had voiced the hope that a return to the scene of last year's victory would kick-start a season in which he missed the cut in six of his last nine starts.
He was also determined to be aggressive, recalling that when he defended his 2012 Frys.com Open crown he settled for a share of 51st in 2013.
"I was too comfortable," he said. "You've just got to realise that it's a new golf tournament, there are four rounds to play and there's a bunch of players that can beat you."
When he teed off in perfect morning conditions, with no wind, he discussed strategy with his caddie and decided it would be "fire at everything."
Although his early lead stood up, it was a slim cushion over a big chasing group.
New Zealand's Danny Lee, James Hahn, Jason Bohn, Joe Durant, Chris Kirk, D.A. Points, Patrick Rodgers and Jim Renner all shared second on five-under 65.
Lee grabbed the last of his eight birdies at the par-three 18th to join the group.
Rodgers, who recently completed his third year at Stanford University, turned pro in June and is playing on a sponsor's exemption.
The highlight of his round was an eagle at the par-four first, where he holed a wedge from 118 yards.
Rodgers is among the players chasing four spots in the British Open that are up for grabs this week to players who finish in the top 12 and aren't already qualified for the year's third major.
But he said he's taking things one step at a time.
"I feel like I'm continuing to get settled in here the last three weeks and I'm continuing to learn and improve and hopefully just build on today and continue to get better as the week goes on," he said.
On a crowded leaderboard, a group of eight players shared 10th place on four-under 66, including US veteran Steve Stricker and South Korea's Bae Sang-Moon.
Bubba Watson, the two-time Masters champion, was in a tied 31st spot with a clutch of other players after his 68.Leading first-round scores on Thursday in the $6.5 million US PGA Tour Greenbrier Classic (USA unless noted, par-70):
64 - Jonas Blixt (SWE)
65 - James Hahn, Jason Bohn, Joe Durant, Chris Kirk, D.A. Points, Patrick Rodgers, Jim Renner, Danny Lee (NZL)
66 - Bae Sang-Moon (KOR), Michael Thompson, Steve Stricker, Kevin Na, Troy Merritt, Chris Stroud, Pat Perez, Chad Collins
67, Michael Putnam, Davis Love, Ben Curtis, Charles Howell, Patrick Reed, Charlie Beljan, David Lingmerth (SWE), Tyrone Van Aswegen (RSA), Kevin Chappell, Luke Guthrie, Robert Allenby (AUS), Keegan Bradley, Bobby Wyatt