KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina: Swede Carl Pettersson flawlessly put himself in position to improve a mediocre record in the majors, spearheading a glut of low scoring to surge into a one-shot lead in the PGA Championship opening round on Thursday.
The 34-year-old, who became a U.S. citizen in January, fired a sizzling six-under-par 66 in relatively calm, sunny conditions at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort to take control of the season's final major.
Former U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy, long-hitting American Gary Woodland, Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Swede Alex Noren charged into contention with 67s while four-times champion Tiger Woods was happy after opening with a six-birdie 69.
Defending champion Keegan Bradley, 1991 winner John Daly and Dutchman Joost Luiten, who briefly led at eight under before bogeying his last four holes, were among a group of eight players who carded 68s at Kiawah, where ocean breezes strengthened later in the day.
Forty-four players broke par on the longest layout to stage a major championship, making the most of conditions softened by heavy rain earlier in the week. The average score was 73.42.
Pettersson, who won his fifth PGA Tour title at the Heritage Classic in April, has missed 10 cuts in the majors while recording only two top-10 finishes.
McIlroy, who won last year's U.S. Open by a staggering eight shots, sank a 12-footer to birdie his opening hole, the 10th, and picked up further shots at the 14th, 16th, second and sixth to rocket into contention.
Most eyes, though, were on Woods who teed off at the 10th in pursuit of his 15th major title but his first since the 2008 U.S. Open.
Following an early birdie at the 12th he bogeyed the 13th after finding bunkers off the tee and also with his third shot, and the tricky par-three 14th, where he missed the elevated green to the left off the tee.
However, Woods immediately recovered by sinking a 15-foot birdie putt at the 15th, sparking a cry of "beautiful" from a fan, before rolling in a 25-footer on the 18th green to prompt huge roars from the crowd crammed into the grandstands.
Woods also birdied the first and second, stumbled with a bogey at the fourth, then picked up one more shot at the par-three eighth to finish three strokes off the early lead.
Many of the game's leading players did not fare as well in the opening round, four-times major winner Phil Mickelson and Masters champion Bubba Watson grinding out 73s in the tougher conditions of the afternoon.
British world number one Luke Donald carded a 74, fourth-ranked Lee Westwood a 75 and U.S. champion Webb Simpson of the U.S. battled to a 79.