Goosen Closing in on Lead
McLean carded an eagle and eight birdies with just one dropped shot in a superb round of 64 which was all the more impressive in that it was played in the teeth of a strong south-eastern which blew throughout the afternoon.
One shot behind McLean is Des Terblanche after a 66 in benign morning conditions, and a stroke further off the pace are three young South African tyros ' Jean Hugo (66) Bradford Vaughan (66) and Martin Maritz (67).
Nobody, however, will have missed the looming presence of reigning U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen who is a shot further back after a 66 of his own.
Ernie Els posted a 68 to stand at 6-under, the same score as defending champion Trevor Immelman.
Casualties of the halfway cut ' which fell at level par - included PGA Tour star Rory Sabbatini who crashed to a 78, as well as consistent tour performers Andre Cruse and Desvonde Botes.
'Things went my way today,' McLean said afterwards. 'I made a lot of putts and remained patient. I didnt hit that many fairways and just managed to get the ball in the hole.
'Ive had a tough year, to be honest. I took some time off at the beginning and tried to make a swing change, but when I went back out onto the European Challenge Tour my mind was going crazy and my confidence took a knock.
'I think I hit rock bottom around July, but things have gradually got better since then. When you hit rock bottom the only way is up and Ive never practiced as hard as I did this year. When it gets between your ears, golf is a difficult game, and thats what I allowed to happen.'
Terblanches round included five birdies and an eagle two at the par-4 1st ' his 10th ' when he holed his second shot.
'It was a 9-iron from 146 yards,' Terblanche said. 'I didnt see it go in, but someone up there on the green said it was perfect and obviously it was.'
'I didnt actually play that well yesterday but its got better and better and Im actually hitting it good now. Things are looking good.'
Big-hitting Vaughan, who is one of the most exciting young talents on the Sunshine Tour, blotted his card with a bogey from the middle of the fairway at the relatively straightforward 18th. Remarkably, he was using a new set of irons for the first time, after losing faith in his regular set on Thursday.
'I dont think my manager knew what to say to me,' Vaughan laughed. 'But I told him not to worry and that I knew Id be able to hit them ' and thats what I did.'
Goosen meanwhile was delighted with an improved showing following his 69 in the first round, although still felt that he was not hitting the ball as well as he could around a course that received almost no protection from a strangely muted south-easterly breeze.
'The greens were definitely a lot easier in the morning than they were yesterday afternoon,' Goosen said. 'I actually played worse today but this time managed to sink some putts. On the first nine I only hit three greens in regulation ' I think the holiday swing is setting in.
'Although the wind isnt really blowing, the course actually played harder than the first round with the way its set up. It would be good if the wind got up a little over the weekend ' obviously we dont want gales, but a club or two difference could be interesting. Ive seen one or two of the pin positions for tomorrow and if the wind blows we could have some fun out there.'
The reigning U.S. Open champion also admitted that he was ready for a rest after the most successful year of his career, but one that has clearly taken a huge amount out of the genial man from Pietersburg.
'Im looking forward to the holiday coming up. Its getting to the stage now where Im starting to get a bit frustrated when Im hitting what I think are good shots but I dont get the result that I want.
'Im getting a bit tired and frustrated ' gatvol,' he said. 'But Ill give it my all over the weekend. Only two rounds to go for the year so I might as well try and finish off on a high.'
Full Field Scores from the Vodacom Players Championship
Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.
Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.
Rahm (62) fires career low round
The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:
Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)
What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.
Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.
Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.
Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.
Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.
Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.
Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm
Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder
Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.
"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."
Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.
Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.
"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."
Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn
There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.
Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.
Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.
Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.
The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.