Being played at the high-altitude 7,559-yard Castle Pines Golf Club in Castle Pines, Colo., where the thin air makes yardage books almost useless, the modified Stableford scoring system was once again in activation.
Click here for the Modified Stableford scoring system
Pate, who played the back nine first, posted birdies on 12, 13, 15 and 17 to get to 8-points at the turn. Then on the par-5 first hole, he exploded to the lead with a 5-point eagle, that got him to 13-points.
A bogey on the the par-4 fifth and another on the last, cost him two points and dropped him to 11-points for the day.
Rich Beem, who missed the cut at last week's John Deere Classic, carded six birdies on his round to go with two bogeys and stood in a tie for second with Billy Mayfair with 10-points apiece.
Mayfair, who had a strong showing at the U.S. Open but missed the cut at Muirfield, had a wild ride on his back-nine. He birdied the 12th then bogeyed the next, followed up by two more birdies on the 14th and 15th. Another bogey at 16 was again followed up with a birdie 4 at the par-5 17th, that left him with 10-points for the day.
A group of five golfers, including Duffy Waldorf, stand two off the pace with 9-points, and another group of six are one back of that, at 8-points.
Last year's champion, Tom Pernice, Jr., struggled to recapture his 2001 International magic. Five double bogeys on the day, and finishing with minus-9-points, all but ended his hopes of repeating.
Though he posted three bogeys on Thursday, he did manage to make up for that with birdies on holes No.1 and 2, two more at nine and 10, one at 15, and the last at the 17th.
Sergio Garcia, playing along in Els group, finished birdie-eagle-birdie to right his ship and close with 7-points.
Full-field scores from The International