Strong finishes to both nines helped Seamus Power to a four-under 66 on day one of the RSM Classic and he lies four shots adrift of Cole Hammer while his Bermuda buddy Ben Griffin is within one in Georgia.
Three successive birdies on holes, six, seven and eight helped Power turn in 33 after a slow start where a bogey on the third saw him fall over par for the first time in a long time.
The Waterford native added a fourth birdie of the day on the twelfth before dropping one on the fourteenth.
Power can reach a career-high 23rd in the world with a second win in three events this week and birdies on 15 and 18 moved him into a share of 17th place.
It was a solid performance from the world number 30 who was 17th in strokes gained tee to green, 7th in putting although he lost over half a stroke around the greens languishing in 62nd in that category.
Former Walker Cup star Hammer will be a familiar name to some Irish fans having faced John Murphy and Mark Power in the 2021 Walker Cup in Seminole and he was in excellent form with an eight-under 64 on the PL Course to take a one shot lead over Griffin.
It was almost the perfect round from Hammer but he dropped a shot on the par-5 8th which was his seventeenth.
“I mean, I was almost blacked out there for a little bit. It went by in a heartbeat, but at the same time was a long day. It was cold and, like I said a little bit ago, I had very low expectations. And I’m glad I did because it was a tough day out there, there’s no question. I figured if I — par was a good score today and I found myself making putts for birdie early on and then just kind of kept going from there, but what a day.”
2022 has proven a difficult year for Hammer who showed such promise as an amateur but after making his first PGA Tour cut as a pro at last week’s Houston Open he is riding high at the summit.
“This summer was tough on the PGA TOUR. I had some good finishes on the Korn Ferry, but I was batting zero on the PGA TOUR. I needed to get that monkey off my back. To do that in my hometown event in Houston was huge for me. I was telling my parents, but the first tee in Houston was like the most nervous I’ve ever been just with the hometown crowd. It’s kind of crazy since I’ve played in Walker Cups and stuff.
“But anyways, I basically told myself I’ll never be that nervous again. Yeah, I just got comfortable after that and saw myself shoot a good round on Tour and now I believe that I can do it.”