Los Angeles - Webb Simpson drained a 35-foot birdie putt on his final hole to shoot a seven-under 65 for a one-shot lead after the first round of The RSM Classic on Thursday.
Simpson recovered from a slow start to play the final 13 holes in eight under on the Plantation Course in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
This is just the second start of the autumn PGA Tour season for Simpson and he credits his caddie Paul Tesori with helping him keep his focus in the opening round.
"He told me, no matter how I started out, to stay patient," said Simpson, who made bogey on his second hole of the day, a par-three. "I think he knew scores would be good. He helped me weather the storm."
Simpson, who birdied four of his last five holes on Thursday, is seeking his first win since the 2018 Players Championship. He had three runners-up last season.
His score was enough for a one-shot lead over fellow American Cameron Tringale, South Korea's Lee Kyoung-hoon and Rhein Gibson of Australia who are all at six-under par.
Weather conditions were ideal for low scores as 90 players broke par on a sunny day with a light wind blowing.
In his only other start of this season, Simpson finished seventh at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. It marked his 13th consecutive finish in the top 30 at the event, a span that includes three runners-up.
Simpson has a history of strong performances at this tournament. He finished one shot out of a playoff last year that was won by Charles Howell, and lost in a playoff to Ben Crane in 2011.
In 2017, he was forced to withdraw at the halfway stage to be with his ailing father who died shortly after.
The tournament is taking place on two courses with Simpson competing on the more difficult Plantation course on Thursday.
After the cut is made, the weekend field will play both rounds at the easier Seaside course.
Leading scores after Thursday's first round of the US PGA Tour RSM
Classic played at Plantation and Seaside courses in Sea Island, Georgia
(USA unless noted):
Webb Simpson (PL) 65
Cameron Tringale (SS) 64, Lee Kyoung-hoon Lee (KOR) (SS) 64, Rhein Gibson (AUS) (PL) 66
Harrington (SS) 65, Tyler Duncan (PL) 67, Brian Harman (PL) 67, Alex
Cejka (GER) (PL) 67, Rory Sabbatini (SVK) (PL) 67, Scott Brown (SS) 65,
Sebastian Munoz (COL) (PL) 67, Nick Taylor (CAN) (PL) 67, Hank Lebioda