Byrd leads PGA's Champs

2012-01-07 11:50

Kapalua - Defending champion Jonathan Byrd reeled off six birdies in a row on Friday en route to a six-under par 67 and a one-shot lead in the US PGA Tour's season-opening Tournament of Champions.

Byrd, whose round on the par-73 Plantation Course included eight birdies overall and two bogeys, had a one-shot lead over four players: Scotland's Martin Laird, Steve Stricker, Webb Simpson and Michael Bradley.

The field, open only to last season's title winners, was reduced to 27 on Friday when former US Open champion Lucas Glover withdrew with a sprained knee.

Glover hurt himself in a paddleboard accident last weekend and had already said he was not sure he would be able to compete.

Three of the four reigning major champions had already opted out, with Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland and Charl Schwartzel of South Africa bypassing the $5.6 million event.

Keegan Bradley, the American who captured his first major title at the PGA Championship last August, carded a first-round 69.

South Korean KJ Choi was a further shot back on 70.

Despite his status as defending champion, Byrd admitted to a few nerves in the first event of the season - some of them settled by his birdie binge.

"The front nine was fun. You’re kind of never sure what you’ve got starting off the first round of the year," said Byrd, who has not won since his playoff victory here last year.

It was not all smooth sailing. Byrd was particularly unhappy with his finish - a three-putt par at the 18th.

"You're leading the golf tournament and you walk off a hole embarrassed," he said.

Laird got off to a slow start with back-to-back bogeys at the second and third. But he rebounded with birdies at four and five, and capped his round with the last of his eight birdies at 18.

Stricker overcame a double-bogey at the par-three eighth and closed with birdies at four of his last five holes.

"I wasn't very happy at the time," Stricker said. "I knew if I could get a good, decent round in - I was thinking get three-under or something like that - I'd be OK.

"But I got a couple more than that coming in."

Michael Bradley joined the group on 68 with a round that included five birdies without a bogey, while Simpson's five-under effort included an eagle at the par-five fifth.

Keegan Bradley's 69 included an eagle at the par-five ninth, where he holed out from short of the green.

First-round scores on Friday in the $5.6 million US PGA Tour Hyundai Tournament of Champions (USA unless noted, par-73):

67 - Jonathan Byrd
68 - Michael Bradley, Martin Laird (GBR), Steve Stricker, Webb Simpson
69 - Keegan Bradley
70 - K.J. Choi (KOR)
71 - Bryce Molder, D.A. Points
72 - Ben Crane, Johnson Wagner, Scott Piercy, Mark Wilson
73 - Kevin Na, Sean O'Hair, Rory Sabbatini (RSA), Gary Woodland, Nick Watney, Bill Haas
74 - Harrison Frazar, Scott Stallings, Bubba Watson
75 - Jhonattan Vegas (VEN), Chris Kirk, Aaron Baddeley (AUS)
76 - Brendan Steele, David Toms

Lucas Glover DNS