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Carl Pettersson & Jonathan Byrd lead with 66s

Swede Carl Pettersson and American Jonathan Byrd took advantage of surprisingly calm conditions at the picturesque Kapalua Resort to set the first-round pace in the Tournament of Champions on Thursday.

Pettersson and Byrd fired matching seven-under-par 66s on the hilly Plantation Course to take joint control of the PGA Tour’s elite season-opening event.

On a cool, overcast afternoon, Pettersson knocked in an eight-foot birdie putt at the last to join Byrd atop the leaderboard, the American having holed out with a wedge from 111 yards to eagle the par-four 10th.

Ben Crane opened with a 67 while fellow Americans Jim Furyk, Bill Haas and Charley Hoffman returned 68s in the limited-field tournament which brings together PGA Tour winners from the previous season.

“If you played well and made the putts, you were going to shoot low today,” Pettersson told reporters after carding eight birdies and a lone bogey at the par-four sixth.

“It’s unusual to see Kapalua play this way and I was fortunate to be able to take advantage of it.”

The Swede, who booked his place in the elite field by winning last year’s Canadian Open, said he had high hopes for this season after putting in long hours of practice over the last two months.

“I’ve probably worked harder on my game this off-season than I’ve done any other off-season,” the 33-year-old added.

“My game felt good in practice but you never know how it’s going to be in the tournament. It seems to be good so far.”

Byrd, a four-times winner on the U.S. circuit, made an explosive start with four birdies in the first six holes before reaching the turn in five-under 31.

“I felt pretty good out there,” the 32-year-old said. “I had a great front nine. I think I hit every green, hit both par-fives in two, hit one wedge shot real close and just kind of had an easy five-under start.

“It was so calm starting out. All in all, you could just be a little more aggressive.”

Among the big names in the 33-strong field, U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell shot a 71 and 2003 Kapalua champion Ernie Els three-putted the last from 11 feet for a 72.

Geoff Ogilvy, champion here for the last two years, withdrew from the tournament before the start of Thursday’s opening round because of a badly cut right index finger.

The Australian, who had set his sights on a record-equalling third consecutive victory in the season opener, hurt his finger on coral while coming out of the ocean on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Monday.

Scores

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