Defending champion David Toms and Paul Stankowski carded matching rounds of 4-under-par 67. Heritage winner Stewart Cink, Lian-wei Zhang and Hirofumi Miyase are tied for fourth place at minus-3.
'I hit a lot of good shots under tough conditions today, drove the ball in play for the most part,' said Toms. 'I missed a few fairways but never was really in any trouble. I holed some putts early today, a couple of nice putts, which I haven't been doing, so it was just a good, solid day, a good start for me.'
The course played differently than years past as the greens were fast and firm. Normally players go flag hunting at this tournament but only 20 golfers broke par on Thursday.
Taylor started on the back nine Thursday at the TPC at Southwind and promptly broke into red figures. He sank a 15-foot birdie putt at the 10th, but dropped a shot at the 14th. Taylor hit his approach long and right and missed the 15-footer for the par save.
Taylor rebounded at the next hole when his wedge stopped 10 feet from the hole and he rolled home the birdie putt. He closed out his opening nine with a 30-foot chip-in at No. 18.
The 28-year-old moved up the leaderboard with his play after the turn. Taylor holed a 40-foot birdie putt at the first and made it two in a row with a 30-footer at No. 2.
He drained a 20-footer for birdie at the fifth, then made an 8-footer for birdie at the par-3 eighth to reach 6 under par. At the ninth, Taylor drove into the water off the tee and after his penalty stroke, missed the green with his third. Taylor chipped to 4 feet and ran home the par-saving putt to take the first-round lead for the first time in his brief PGA Tour career.
'I'm looking forward to tomorrow,' said Taylor. 'There's three more days left and a lot of golf to be played. I'm just going to enjoy it and hopefully keep it up.'
Toms, who won by three over Nick Price last year, tallied three birdies over his opening nine holes, the back nine at Southwind. He got to 5 under par after a 20-foot eagle putt at the third, but things briefly fell apart for the 2001 PGA Champion.
He split the fairway at the par-5 fifth, but his 3-iron approach went over the green and he made bogey. Toms came back with an 8-foot birdie at the sixth, but a wedge in the water at the ninth cost him a stroke and a share of first.
Stankowski, who is battling a wrist injury, recorded four birdies in his first 10 holes. He found the water with a 5-iron at the par-3 14th, but chipped to a foot and saved bogey.
Stankowski looked to be in trouble at No. 15 when his drive landed in a divot. He muscled a sand-wedge 6 feet and made the birdie putt to get within one of Taylor.
'I'm pleased with how I finished,' said Stankowski. 'I hit the ball very solid off the tee and I hit the irons pretty good, made a couple putts. That's something lately I have not done well, so it's nice to putt well and give myself a shot.'
Brent Geiberger and Patrick Sheehan are knotted in seventh place at 2-under-par 69.
Tom Lehman, returning to the tour after knee surgery, shot a 1-under 70 and is tied for ninth place with Greg Chalmers, Todd Fischer, Ben Crane, Charles Howell III, J.J. Henry, Tripp Isenhour, Rich Barcelo, Michael Bradley, Steve Allan, J.P. Hayes and last week's Henrico County Open winner on the Nationwide Tour Daniel Chopra.