(Reuters) - Stewart Cink drew inspiration from his wife's cancer battle to fire a career-low eight-under-par 62 on Thursday on an ideal day for scoring in the first round of the RSM Classic in St. Simons, Georgia.
Cink, the 2009 British Open champion, and fellow American Jonathan Byrd shared second place behind Canadian rookie Mackenzie Hughes, who enjoyed another highlight day in his breakthrough year with a flawless 61 at the Sea Island Resort.
The 43-year-old Cink said he has been inspired by his wife Lisa's battle with breast cancer and that some recent good news for her raised their spirits.
"She's got a pretty rough case of breast cancer. It's not good, but she got a really good report this Monday. A huge blessing," he told Golf Channel. "My heart is so much better than it was."
Cink stepped away from the tour when she was diagnosed in May, but has returned and is now "swinging free and easy" buoyed by her support.
"She's gone to every tournament except one this year that I've played. She walks the golf course and feels well and she's doing an unbelievable job fighting, and she's teaching me a lot," said Cink. "I'm really just trying to let golf be a piece of my life and not let life be a piece of golf."
Hughes posted nine birdies in a bogey-free round at Sea Island.
"It was one of those days where everything was going right," said Hughes. "Towards the end there I had a chance to shoot 59 and I was thinking about it but came up a couple short."
Hughes has been on a roll, earning his PGA Tour card in August and getting married three weeks ago.
"It's been a good year, to say the least," said Hughes.
Byrd, a local resident, also had a family connection in his bogey-free performance on a calm day at the seaside course.
"My daughter Caroline turned eight today, so I shot eight-under for her. It was a pretty good birthday present, for me actually," said Byrd, the 2011 Hyundai Tournament of Champions winner.
The best score from the tournament's other venue, the par-72 Plantation Course, was seven-under 65 posted by Japan's Hiroshi Iwata and Americans Cameron Tringale and Kyle Stanley.
(Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)