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Red-hot Herbert fires 63 to grab early PGA Fortinet lead

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SAN FRANCISCO: Australian Lucas Herbert reeled off six straight birdies before a closing par to grab a two-stroke lead after Thursday's first round of the US PGA Tour's Fortinet Championship.

The 27-year-old made 10 birdies against a lone bogey to fire a nine-under-par 63 at Silverado in Napa, California.

That matched his career-low 18-hole PGA Tour score, which he first managed in last year's final round of the Zozo Championship.

"Found a little groove there," Herbert said. "It felt like anything I did poorly seemed to work out nicely for me and the good shots got rewarded as well.

"Felt like I played OK and just got a lot of good breaks and capitalised on chances as well."

Herbert, who took a seven-week break following a missed cut in July's British Open, added: "I felt like coming here I was ready to play again."

South Korea's Kim Seong-hyeon was second after a bogey-free 65.

Six players were a further shot back including England's Harry Hall and South Korea's Kang Sung-hoon.

Herbert's only US PGA Tour title came at the 2021 Bermuda Championship.

But he is a three-time winner on the DP World Tour, his most recent in April when he won the ISPS Handa Championship in Japan with a birdie on the second playoff hole to defeat Canada's Aaron Cockerill.

After birdies at the third and par-five fifth holes, Herbert took a bogey at six but answered with a 28-foot birdie putt at the seventh and began the back nine with a 24-foot birdie putt.

His epic birdie run, twice as long as his prior PGA career-best streak, began with tap-ins at the par-five 12th and par-four 13th.

He then sank birdie putts from nine feet at 14, just inside five feet at the par-five 15th and 16 feet at 16 and the par-three 17th.

The event launched the PGA's fall season, a series of events after the FedEx Cup playoffs and before the start of the 2024 season that primarily allows players outside the season's top 70 to qualify for spots on next year's tour.

Among the exceptions was two-time defending champion Max Homa, who fired an opening-round 70. The world number seven, who will play on the US Ryder Cup team later this month, seeks his first win since January.

Justin Thomas, another member of the Ryder Cup team, shot a three-under 69. -- AFP

Fortinet Championship first-round scores

(USA unless noted):

63 - Lucas Herbert (AUS)

65 - Kim Seong-hyeon (KOR)

66 - Kang Sung-hoon (KOR), Harry Hall (ENG), Jason Dufner, Kelly Kraft, Mark Hubbard, Zac Blair

67 - Kevin Streelman, Justin Lower, Satoshi Kodaira (JPN), Bae Sang-Moon (KOR) 68 - Cameron Davis (AUS), Callum Tarren (ENG), Kramer Hickok, Sahith Theegala, Sam Ryder, Eric Cole, Kevin Roy

69 - Zach Johnson, Tom Johnson, Brendon Todd, Justin Thomas, Kevin Kisner, David Lipsky, Austin Cook, Robby Shelton, Joel Dahmen, Chad Ramey, Hayden Springer, Greyson Sigg, Doc Redman, Doug Ghim, Vincent Whaley

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