Rookie Hughes shoots 61, leads RSM by 1


The final official PGA Tour event of 2016 is off and running, and a rookie clings to the top spot in the early going. Here's how things look after the first round of the RSM Classic, where Mackenzie Hughes holds a one-shot lead:

Leaderboard: Mackenzie Hughes (-9), Stewart Cink (-8), Jonathan Byrd (-8), Cameron Tringale (-7), Blayne Barber (-7), Kyle Stanley (-7), Hiroshi Iwata (-7)

What it means: Hughes is making just his fifth start as a Tour member, but he now finds himself atop the standings after briefly challenging the sub-60 barrier on the Seaside Course. Chasing him is a group that includes veterans like Byrd and Stanley as well as Cink, who has played sparingly in recent months and hasn't won since the 2009 Open Championship.

Round of the day: Hughes got off to a blistering start, making the turn in 5-under 30 before adding birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 to play his first 11 holes in 7 under. The Canadian added two more birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 and finished with three pars to close out a 9-under 61 after finding every fairway and 15 of 18 greens in regulation.

Best of the rest: Cink took time away from competition earlier this year to be with his wife as she battles breast cancer. But the veteran is back to competing this week and got off to a strong start with an 8-under 62 that featured four straight birdies on Nos. 4-7 of the Seaside Course and a lone dropped shot on No. 9, his final hole of the day.

Biggest disappointment: Zach Johnson is one of several local residents enjoying a home game this week, but he wasn't able to capitalize during an even-par 70 Thursday on the Seaside Course. Johnson made the turn in 1 over and didn't make a birdie until No. 14. He closed with a bogey on No. 18 and now sits nine shots back and in danger of missing the cut.

Main storyline heading into Friday: It remains to be seen how Hughes will hold up under the pressure of his first lead on Tour, but the biggest story remains Cink. At age 43 and more than seven years removed from his last win, Cink has hardly thought of competitive golf since his wife's cancer diagnosis. Should he contend, and even perhaps win, it would easily be one of the biggest stories of the year.

Quote of the day: "I found a good thought on the range this morning, and it just kind of clicked from there." - Hughes