Bogey free: American Keegan Bradley leads the US PGA Tour's Canadian Open after firing seven birdies in a seven-under par 63 at Hamilton Hamilton Golf and Country Club. — AFP Photo
OTTAWA — Keegan Bradley fired seven birdies in a seven-under-par 63 on Thursday to take the first-round lead at the US PGA Tour Canadian Open, last tune-up for the US Open at Pebble Beach.
Bradley made the most of favorable morning scoring conditions and finished the day with a one-shot lead over five players at Hamilton Golf and Country Club near Toronto.
"It was just solid top to bottom," said Bradley, the 2011 PGA Championship winner. "I hit almost every fairway, almost every green and then holed some putts.
"With me, it's all about the putter," added the American. "When that thing gets going I can do stuff like I did today."
There are plenty of players within striking distance, starting with the group on 65 of Canadian Nick Taylor, Ireland's Shane Lowry, South Korean Im Sung-jae, South African Erik Van Rooyen and American Roberto Castro.
Lowry, coming off a tie for eighth at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black, had seven birdies and one bogey.
Taylor, whose seven birdies included four in a row at the first through the fourth after he made the turn, was one of four Canadians within three shots of the lead -- all trying to become the first golfer and trying to become the first Canadian to win the national championship since Pat Fletcher in 1954.
Im also teed off on 10, opening with back-to-back birdies and capping his round with his sixth birdie of the day at the ninth.
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, who will return to the site of his 2010 US Open win at Pebble Beach next week but still hasn't qualified for the British Open at Royal Portrush, was in a big group on five-under 65.
Bradley took a while to warm up, opening with six straight pars before exploding with six birdies in seven holes form the seventh through the 13th. He added one more at 17.
"I was hitting a lot of good shots and I actually had a couple of pretty brutal lip outs," he said. "I just kept telling myself keep going, don't try to force these putts in and sure enough right after that they started going in."
Bradley added the tournament to his schedule in a bid to get "a little something going" before the US Open tees off next Thursday.
Koepka back in action
Two-time defending US Open champion Brooks Koepka, who took three weeks off after winning the PGA Championship, travelled north of the border for the same reason and said he was satisfied with a first-round 70.
"I actually thought I played really well," said Koepka, who hit eight of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation with two bogeys and two birdies in his even par effort.
"I struck it beautifully," added the American. "I gave myself some good chances, just didn't capitalize. Two birdies, it very easily could have been five or six."
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy was similarly satisfied with an opening 67, which he called "the worst I could have shot."
"I played well," McIlroy said. "Definitely an improvement on how I played last week at the Memorial."
For defending champion Dustin Johnson, however, it was a difficult day. The American, who recently split with swing coach Claude Harmon III, had five bogeys in his first nine holes on the way to a one-over 71. AFP