Mississippi native Davis Riley shot a bogey-free, 6-under-par 66 Thursday to earn a share of the first-round lead at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss.
Riley and Will Gordon set the early pace ahead of seven players one stroke behind them at 5-under 67.
Riley, 25, started off hot with four birdies over the first seven holes at the Country Club of Jackson. He added two more at Nos. 15 and 16, the latter an 18-foot putt, his longest of the day.
“I didn’t have the best day with my driver, but when I did hit the fairway, I felt like I gave myself a really good opportunity to hit some nice approaches in there.”
Riley’s best showing on the PGA Tour was a second-place finish at last year’s Valspar Championship. There’s added pressure to win his home-state event. The Hattiesburg native called the tournament “my fifth major” earlier this week.
“I think that’s probably why I haven’t played my best golf here in the past just because it’s right down the road,” Riley said Thursday. “I have so many friends and family here. I want to perform. It just would be a really, really special tournament to win.”
Gordon finished the day with seven birdies and just one bogey. He made a late move up the leaderboard at the end of the afternoon with birdies at Nos. 14, 15 and 17 to tie Riley.
Tied at 5-under 67 were Andrew Putnam, Brandon Matthews, Mark Hubbard, Trevor Cone, Taiwan’s Kevin Yu, South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Belgium’s Thomas Detry.
Bezuidenhout, coming off his Presidents Cup debut last week, made six birdies and one bogey. He ranked first in the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green.
“You learn a lot playing against the best players in the world, and last week was most of the best players were there,” Bezuidenhout said. “We faced a strong U.S. team last week. Every week that you play against the best players in the world, you can play your game, and that’s the only way you’re going to get better.”
Kevin Roy, Nick Taylor of Canada, S.H. Kim of South Korea and Russell Knox of Scotland were tied for 10th at 4-under 68. Defending champion Sam Burns opened with a 2-under 70.