Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits from the rough on...

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits from the rough on the eighth green during the first round of the Cognizant Classic golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Credit: AP/Marta Lavandier

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Chad Ramey's first two trips to PGA National as a professional were largely forgettable. He might have a chance to change that this week.

Ramey shot a bogey-free round of 7-under 64 on Thursday in the opening round of the Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches, tying S.H. Kim for the 18-hole lead. Kim had an eagle and five birdies, including one on the finishing hole, to pull into the tie atop the leaderboard.

A group of five players — Cameron Young, Ryan Moore, Chesson Hadley, Austin Eckroat and Andrew Novak — all played in the morning wave and finished one stroke back with 6-under rounds of 65. Also at 65: David Skinns, who played in the afternoon and missed a 11-foot birdie putt on his final hole that would have given him a share of the lead.

Ramey's past appearances in the event — then known as the Honda Classic — were quick and unremarkable. He missed the cut at PGA National by 10 shots in 2022, missed it by just one stroke last year and failed to shoot a round in the 60s either time. But conditions were perfect when he teed off early Thursday; a course known to often have whipping winds had barely a breeze for much of his round.

“I got a good break this morning with there not being any wind,” Ramey said. “I fully expect the rest of the week the wind to blow. I’ve never been here and it not blow. But to take advantage of the calm conditions is definitely a plus.”

Added Rory McIlroy, the world's No. 2-ranked player who shot a 4-under 67 in the morning wave: “You’re not going to get this course much easier.”

Ramey made a 27-foot birdie putt on the opening hole, starting a stretch where he had five birdies in his opening seven holes — including on the 479-yard, par-4 sixth, one of PGA National's tougher holes. From there, he mostly just stayed out of trouble; only two of his 11 par putts were from outside of 4 feet.

Chris Kirk hits from the ninth tee during the first...

Chris Kirk hits from the ninth tee during the first round of the Cognizant Classic golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Credit: AP/Marta Lavandier

“Hit it well, putted well, chipped in once,” said Ramey, whose last first-round lead came last year at The Players Championship. “Very solid through the whole bag.”

Kim — a South Korean who shot a 58 on the Japan Golf Tour in 2021 — holed out from 25 yards on the par-5 third to highlight his round. He holds a first-round lead for the first time in his 45 PGA Tour starts.

Hadley was also bogey-free, with six birdies on his card as he finished one shot back of Ramey. Moore holed out from 113 yards for eagle at the par-4 13th, highlighting his 65. Eckroat had five consecutive birdies in one stretch; he and Moore had nine birdies and three bogeys on the day.

Hadley said the combination of minimal wind and receptive greens left him thinking “let's go.”

Shane Lowry of Ireland reacts to his shot from the...

Shane Lowry of Ireland reacts to his shot from the sixth tee during the first round of the Cognizant Classic golf tournament, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Credit: AP/Marta Lavandier

“I was able to take advantage of the conditions today and shoot 6 under. It probably will continue to go a little bit lower, but it’ll show its teeth. It always does,” Hadley said. “Typically if you’re just hanging around on Sunday, you can put together something, and it can be a special weekend.”

Billy Horschel, C.T. Pan, Sam Ryder, Bud Cauley, Erik van Rooyen, Kevin Yu and Chandler Phillips were in a group at 5-under 66. McIlroy, defending champion Chris Kirk and FedExCup points leader Matthieu Pavon were among those who finished with 67s on a day where PGA National was far from its toughest.

“This felt pretty tame, to be honest,” said Daniel Berger, who finished with a 3-under 68. “I’ve played here where 2-under par is tied for fourth place. Obviously, the golf course has changed a little. It’s a little easier right now. But I expect as the week goes on to get a little tougher as the greens get firmer.”

Play was suspended for darkness with two groups unable to finish their final hole. They will complete their opening rounds early Friday.

More golf news

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME