Making his fifth career start on the PGA Tour, the 30-year-old former Auburn player had four consecutive birdies early on his back nine on the El Camaleon course.
Augusta native Charles Howell, Greg Owen, John Huh, Marc Turnesa, Alejandro Canizares, Matt Every and Mark D. Anderson are tied for second.
“This golf course, it really keeps your attention off the tees,” Howell said. “There’s a lot of trouble out there, and it’s too hard to get ahead of yourself here. The golf course almost helps you stay where you’re at just because it demands a lot of focus and attention on it. Fortunately, I was able to drive the ball in play today, and that gives you a good chance around here to score.”
Defending champion Johnson Wagner had 73. Wagner won the Sony Open in Hawaii in January and tied for second the following week in the Humana Challenge in California.
Greg Norman, the El Camaleon designer, had 79.
LPGA TOUR: In Singapore, Angela Stanford shot 6-under-par 66 to take a two-stroke lead after the opening round of the HSBC Women’s Champions.
Stanford started her round with a birdie on the 10th hole and added another on the 16th to make the turn at 2-under 34.
“Well it was a pretty good start, birdied 10 and hit it pretty close on 11, in the past I think I’ve struggled with that stretch right there, 10, 11, 12,” said Stanford, who held a share of the HSBC first-round lead in 2010.
Her 66 was one shot shy of Lorena Ochoa’s course record.
Momoko Ueda, Amy Yang, Na Yeon Choi, I.K. Kim and So Yeon Ryu were tied for second at 4-under. A group of seven was at 3-under at Tanah Merah Country Club.
World No. 1 Yani Tseng of Taiwan battled elbow soreness in shooting 71.
Defending champion Karrie Webb of Australia shot 72.