Matteson, a former Georgia Tech standout and two-time winner on the PGA Tour, birdied five holes on each nine of the TPC Deere Run to surpass the 7-under 64 of second- place Ricky Barnes. Matteson started by making birdies on three of his first four holes and finished with birdies on four of his first five.
He nearly holed out from a bunker on the par-4 ninth for 60, but settled for par.
Barnes, out in the second group of the day, birdied all three par-5s and two of the four par-3s to pace the morning half of the field.
Robert Garrigus, among a group tied for third at 6-under 65, eagled the par-5 17th by hooking a 270-yard second shot around a tree to set up a 30-foot eagle putt.
Steve Stricker, chasing a fourth consecutive victory in the Deere, shot 65 punctuated by an 80-yard wedge for an eagle 2 on the par-4 14th.
Zach Johnson, the highest ranked player in the tournament at sixth in the FedEx Cup standings, shot 3-under 68 thanks to 4-under 31 on his last nine holes.
Low scores are common in the Deere. TPC Deere Run has yielded at least one 62 or better since 2008, including a first-round 59 by Paul Goydos two years ago.
Only 46 players finished over par. Matteson’s had an average year to this point, missing the cut in 11 of 21 tournaments, including his first five starts. His best finish is a tie for 26th at the Honda Classic.
It was only the third time this year he’s broken 70 in the first round.
“I’ve always been one of the slow-starting Thursday players,” Matteson said.
“If I could do one thing differently in my entire career, it would be to be a faster starter.”
Matteson rolled in 31- and nine-footers for birdies on his first two holes, then ran a birdie attempt on his third hole over the edge of the hole, settling for a tap-in par. A 20-footer for a birdie 3 opened his back nine, which was spiced by a near-eagle on the par-4 fifth, his 14th hole. His birdie putt was 10 inches.
Matteson scored back-to-back 61s en route to winning the Frys.com Open in 2009.
Barnes is 89th in the point standings and 101st on the money list, but birdied three of his first five holes.
His card was marred only by a bogey on the par-4 ninth when he failed to get up and down from the rough. He considered it only a start.
“You’ll have to be in the 20s (under par) to have a chance to win,” Barnes said. “At most tournaments, when you’re 4-under through eight holes, you’re in the lead or tied. Here, you have to keep up that kind of pace.”
Stricker’s eagle from the 14th fairway accelerated his back nine of 6-under 30. He played the front nine in even par 35 before a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 10th hole began his run toward the leaders.
He birdied the 15th and 17th holes to jump into a tie for third with six other players, including Garrigus and Luke Guthrie, the recent Illinois graduate playing in his second tournament as a professional.
Guthrie earned $67,872 by tying for 19th in his first Tour start, at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn.. His bogey-free 65, which featured a 64-foot eagle putt on the par-5 second hole, was his fourth round under par in five as a pro.