Martin seizes Dominican PGA lead with McDowell in hunt
Ben Martin, chasing his first US PGA Tour title since 2014, birdied six of the last eight holes to grab a one-stroke lead after Thursday's first round of the Corales Puntacana Championship.
World number 565 Martin, whose only PGA victory came eight years ago in Las Vegas, fired a six-under par 66 to edge ahead of bogey-free fellow American Adam Schenk at the Dominican Republic resort.
"I did such a great job of just staying in the moment and not getting ahead of myself or thinking about how well I was playing," Martin said.
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open champion, was in third on 68 alongside Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Americans Vaughn Taylor and Hayden Buckley.
Most of the world's top-ranked players are competing at this week's WGC Match Play Championship in Texas, leaving the rest to challenge for a crown in windy Caribbean conditions.
Martin, who opened with a bogey, put his approach to 10 feet at the par-3 11th and sank the birdie putt to start his closing charge. He birdied the par-5 12th and 14th holes, the latter starting a run for four birdies in a row into the wind before a closing par.
"It's the way you want to play golf," Martin said. "It felt easy and just kind of hitting it where I'm seeing it and getting some putts to go in."
Back-nine starter McDowell birdied the par-5 12th, par-4 16th and had back-to-back birdies at the third and par-5 fourth in a bogey-free round.
"It blew really hard coming in there. All in all, really happy with that start," McDowell said.
"Even though I live in Florida full time now and I like the sunshine, I still have retained the ability to play pretty well in the wind."
Taylor birdied three of the first five holes and the 18th to join the third-place pack while back-nine starter Buckley birdied three of his last four.
Kiradech eagled the par-5 seventh and shared second before a bogey at the par-3 17th.