Colombia’s Camilo Villegas carded 31 on the back nine for leading seven-under-par 63, but a tournament is not won on the first day.
Clark has positioned himself nicely for the coming three rounds. Fresh off his victory at the RBC Canadian Open three weeks ago, the Durbanite is on a run of good form and likely to keep producing low rounds.
One of the focal points this week is the FedExcup playoffs, with the cutoff coming on Sunday afternoon. Clark sits at 29th in the standings and a solid result this week could ensure his spot at the Tour Championship, which is the fourth and final leg of the PGA Tour’s season-ending playoffs.
On Thursday the South African headed in that direction during the first round when he birdied the opening two holes at Sedgefield, but a bogey at the third disrupted his flow and it took 11 pars before he started scoring again.
Back to back birdies at the 15th and 16th turned the round into a good one for Clark, who was one of 17 players to shoot three-under for the first round.
Ernie Els joined tournament favourite Brandt Snedeker on two-under-par at the close of day one. That score was good enough for a share of 36th that included Bill Haas and Freddie Jacobson.
A further shot off the pace and hanging in there were Retief Goosen and Richard Sterne, both of whom want a big week to end of the regulation PGA Tour season.
Sterne looks to have finally overcome the injuries that plagued his 2014 season and last week at the PGA Championship he scored three-under-par for the week and tied for 36th.
But for the moment Clark is the South African flying the flag highest and it’s the perfect time to be peaking.