(Reuters) – Scotland’s Russell Knox overcame windy and wet conditions to fire an opening round six-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead at the Mayakoba Classic in Playa del Carmen, Mexico on Thursday.
The 35-year-old Inverness native, who went out in the afternoon and started on the back nine, grabbed the lead when he perfectly judged a putt on the par-four sixth for his seventh birdie at the El Camaleon Golf Club.
Knox is gunning for his third win on the PGA Tour and first since 2016.
“I guess it’s the tequila and tacos,” Knox said when asked why he tends to play well at the tournament.
“Obviously, I love the course, it sets up well for me. Historically, my driving accuracy and iron play has been my strength, so that’s kind of the key things that this course brings out in you.”
Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, who had to skip last month’s Masters after testing positive for COVID-19, was one of the four players trailing Knox by a stroke.
The former top-ranked amateur mixed an eagle, four birdies and a bogey for a five-under-par 66 to sit tied for second with Argentine Emiliano Grillo and Americans Tom Hoge and Akshay Bhatia.
“Took me a couple holes to figure it out a little bit with the wind and stuff, but I’m really happy the way I played and the way I finished,” Niemann said.
World number three Justin Thomas, the highest-ranked player in the field, carded a one-over-par 72 that included a double-bogey at the par-four 14th.
Rickie Fowler, a five-times winner on the PGA Tour, did well to salvage a one-under-par 70 despite a roller-coaster round that included a quadruple-bogey.
Defending champion Brendon Todd is part of a group of six players sitting two back of Knox after carding a four-under 67. Carlos Ortiz, one of the six Mexicans competing in the tournament, also shot 67.
World number 12 Brooks Koepka, looking to snap a 16-month victory drought on the PGA Tour, could only manage a round of even par.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Rory Carroll in Los Angeles, editing by Ed Osmond)