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Overton sets pace in PGA Tour's season opener

Schwartzel of South Africa leaves the 16th green during a practice round for the 93rd PGA Championship golf tournament in Jones Creek
Schwartzel of South Africa leaves the 16th green during a practice round for the 93rd PGA Championship golf tournament in Jones Creek

(Reuters) - Jeff Overton, helped by a stronger grip which he has been using for the past three months, charged into a one-shot lead at the PGA Tour's season-opening Frys.com Open in San Martin, California on Thursday.

The 30-year-old American, still seeking his first victory on the U.S. circuit after turning professional in 2005, mixed five birdies with an eagle to shoot a flawless seven-under-par 64 in the opening round at CordeValle Golf Club.

"It was kind of one of those days that was just really fun," Overton told reporters after making birdies on his last two holes to end the first day of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season one stroke in front of fellow American Brian Harman.

"I really didn't know what to expect after six weeks off but came out and hit it as good as probably I've ever hit it. Just had a lot of fun out there."

Overton, a runner-up four times on the PGA Tour, was delighted to see such positive results following a recent grip change he made to help alleviate ongoing pain in his left wrist.

"My wrist has been bothering me," he said. "I've had a little tendonitis in it for a few years and (the grip change) allows my wrist to get a little squarer at the top of my backswing without having to tweak it a little bit."

Last season was one of the least productive of Overton's career as he recorded only two top-10s in 24 starts on the 2013 PGA Tour.

'BIGGEST GOAL'

Asked what expectations he had for this year, he replied: "You know, I don't really have any. The biggest goal I would say is obviously to win a golf tournament.

"This is my ninth year out here and to have not won yet .... I feel I have been really close a lot of times. That's the first goal. How am I going to get better, what are the little things I've got to do?

"I've got to work on my short game work, I've got to work on getting in the gym and working out a little bit more, just little things because the rest of the stuff follows that."

Kyle Stanley carded a 66 to end the opening round alone in third place, a stroke better than fellow Americans J.J. Henry, Jason Kokrak, Michael Putnam, Jim Herman and Brooks Koepka and South Korean Charlie Wi.

Swede Jonas Blixt, who clinched his maiden PGA Tour victory by one shot at last year's Frys.com Open, launched his title defense with a 69.

Former world number one Vijay Singh also opened with a 69 while 21-year-old Japanese Hideki Matsuyama, who made his Presidents Cup debut for the Internationals last week, returned a 70.

For the first time in almost a century, the PGA Tour schedule is featuring a 'wraparound' season starting in October, rather than its traditional opening in January.

The 2013-14 campaign will include events in Malaysia, China, Mexico, Puerto Rico, England and Canada before winding up in Atlanta with the elite season-ending Tour Championship to be played from Sep. 11-14.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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