Byrd Opens Hyundai with 1-stroke Lead, 67

January 6, 2012, 6:41 PM HST · Updated January 6, 6:44 PM
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By Rodney S. Yap

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Jonathan Byrd

Defending champion Jonathan Byrd shot a 6-under 67 to claim a one-stroke lead over four players after Friday’s first round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Byrd produced six consecutive birdies on his front nine, including two 30-foot-plus putts, and finished with two birdies on the back nine after suffering a couple of bogeys.

In the pack at 5 under is Steve Stricker, Webb Simpson, Michael Bradley and Martin Laird.

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Keegan Bradley is another stroke back at 4 under.

Defending FedExCup champion Bill Haas shot an even-par 73.

Two of the PGA TOUR’s biggest hitters, Gary Woodland and Bubba Watson, also failed to break par at the Plantation Course on Friday. Woodland shot a 73 while Watson shot a 1-over 74.

Saturday’s second round is scheduled to tee off at 9:30 a.m.

Byrd’s iron game has been exceptional at the par-73 Plantation Course, helping him record his fifth straight round in the 60s, but it was the Georgia resident’s improved putting that made the difference. Byrd’s first round was highlighted by four putts of more than 25 feet. Quite the accomplishment at The Plantation Course, which is considered the hardest course on Tour to make putts of over 25 feet.

“That’s something I practiced over the offseason,” said Byrd, who sank 30-footers on Nos. 6 and 8. “I worked on making putts of 10 to 25 feet, after looking at the stats, I put some practice time in for that. And I’m a guy who likes to practice on making putts on holes with a lot of break and I think that’s paid off for me out here. Some of these putts have just a ton of break and grain and you have to read all of the break and grain.”

Overall, Byrd was pleased with his first-round play.

“I felt good out there, my misses were good. I only hit a few loose shots and one was on 9, my second shot, but for the most part I’m really pleased. I gave myself a lot of opportunities to make a few putts and that’s what we’re trying to do every day.”

In all, there are 27 PGA Tour players competing for the $5.6 million purse, with $1,120,000 going to the winner.

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