Robert Karlsson (62) leads Sanford International

Robert Karlsson (62) leads Sanford International

Robert Karlsson fired a bogey-free, 8-under-par 62 to take the first-round lead at the Sanford International on Friday in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Karlsson rolled in five of his eight birdies on the back nine at Minnehaha Country Club to establish a one-stroke lead over Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke, the defending champion, and Kevin Sutherland at 7-under 63.

It was a career-low round for Karlsson on the PGA Tour Champions.

“After all the rain yesterday, the greens are quite soft,” Karlsson said. “The course is playing a bit softer as well, which makes it a bit easier to hit the fairways. And no wind around this golf course is quite unusual, so it was definitely there for scoring. There’s a lot of good scores out there. But it was fantastic, it was a good day.”

Clarke also finished strong, with four birdies over his last five holes.

“If you put the ball in the right place, you have an opportunity to make birdie,” said Clarke, who won The Senior Open Championship in July.

“I hit it close, I hit it stiff, tap-in on 14. Made a good 10-footer — 8-footer on 15, and then hit the driver, a little chip 5-wood onto the green on 16 and two-putted there from 20 feet. … Hit a nice drive and wedge there on the last and rolled it in from about 12 feet, which is the longest putt I holed all day.”

A large tie for fourth at 6-under 64 featured Germany’s Bernhard Langer, South Africa’s Ernie Els, Steve Flesch, Jeff Maggert, Rocco Mediate and Clark Dennis.

Langer and Els entered the week seventh and ninth in the Charles Schwab Cup money list. The Charles Schwab Cup Championship will be decided in November in Phoenix.

New Zealand’s Steven Alker, the current Schwab Cup leader, opened with a 2-under 68. Irishman Padraig Harrington, in second place on the money list, shot a 4-under 66 Friday.


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