PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Chris Kirk shot an 8-under 63 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
Kirk had four birdies on each nine in his bogey-free round on Mayakoba’s Greg Norman-designed El Camaleon course.
“I don’t think anybody’s comfort’s really that high,” Kirk said. “I definitely drove the ball well today. Just trying to stick to my sort of go to shot and hit draws out there for the most part. It’s definitely intimidating off the tee a little bit, but thankfully I hit a lot of good ones today.”
The former University of Georgia player has two top-10 finishes in three starts in the new PGA Tour season, opening with a tie for eighth at Silverado and tying for second in Mississippi. He tied for 61st last week in Las Vegas, closing with rounds of 75 and 74.
“I just played pretty terrible over the weekend in Vegas, but I think I was just a little bit tired,” Kirk said. “So thankfully, I came and took Monday and Tuesday completely off and didn’t touch a club and just tried to relax, and now I feel kind of re-energized and ready to play again. No, I definitely wasn’t expecting to shoot 63 today, but happy I did.”
He won the last of his four PGA Tour titles in 2015.
Ben Crane, Camilo Villegas and Gary Woodland were tied for second at 64.
“This is a very tight golf course,” Crane said. “After maybe 10 to 15 yards of rough on each side, it’s just jungle, right? When you get some crosswinds, you’ve got to hit solid tee shots and you’ve got to really control your ball. You really want to be able to flight your ball because you really don’t want to be curving it down on that crosswind downwind, right, because it’s going to curve so much.”
Mexico’s Abraham Ancer bogeyed the final hole for a 65.
“It’s huge. It’s awesome playing in Mexico in front of my people,” said Ancer, a former University of Oklahoma player. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself and I obviously want to play well, but it would be awesome to finish up there at the end of the tournament.”
NCAA champion Aaron Wise also was 65 along with Webb Simpson, Scott Piercy, Kevin Streelman and Nicholas Lindheim.
Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., shot a 67 while Nick Taylor, also of Abbotsford, and David Hearn of Brantford, Ont., both shot 68. Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., was 71.
Jim Furyk had a double bogey in a 74 in his first round of the season.
Defending champion Graeme McDowell opened with a 75.