“I hit the ball pretty well and the greens are rolling well. I’ve been working hard, and nice that something has paid off,” he said.
The six-time European Tour winner had only one blemish on his card and negotiated the par-71 track in five-under-par to begin the week one shot behind leaders Brooks Koepka, Greg Owen, and Ryan Palmer.
“I played nicely for a change,” said Sterne. “Though I only got to play the back nine in my practice round. I tried to reserve my energy on Tuesday, played nine to get a feel for the course. When it is as hot as this, you need to rest as much as possible. Today I hit some good shots, fortunately.”
The 33-year-old has been angling to make an impact on the PGA Tour this season, but has struggled to find the form that saw him runaway with victories in South Africa and Europe. A fortnight ago at the AT&T Byron Nelson he showed the first signs of readiness to contend in The States when he shot a Sunday 66 to tie for 39th place.
Every part of a player’s game has to be on point if they are to contend on the PGA Tour. Sterne certainly has the ability and his game is beginning to click, which showed this Thursday when he started on the 10th and played that nine in three-under-par 32.
The key element of his round was putting, and he sank 99 feet and 11 inches worth of putts during the first round.
“I made a few in the beginning, which was nice, and hit some good shots coming in, but unfortunately didn’t make any of those,” he said.
The Pretoria local is in the mix, but needs to keep up the pace in order to contend in the scorching heat of Tennessee.
“It’s getting firm, especially in this heat. I would expect if it stays like this to dry out a lot and be a lot bouncier. We’ll see what happens,” he said.