Elders 7-under-par 65 gives him a shot advantage over eight players all knotted at 6-under. The list includes Kirk Triplett, Tommy Tolles, Deane Pappas, Luke Donald, Cameron Beckman, Eduardo Herrera and a pair of Jonathans ' Byrd and Kaye.
Played in soggy conditions at the Annandale Golf Club, the players were able to take aim at the flagsticks and the scoring reflected that with 73 players under par and 42 at 3-under or better.
Elder, who actually started off his day by going 2-over after three holes, would desperately like to hang on to his lead though the weekend, the first-place check being his only way to finish in the top 125 on the money list.
After the early stumble, Elder righted the ship with three straight birdies and finished with a 1-under 35 on the outward nine.
Elder, who hasnt made the cut in his last three starts, then blistered the back nine with a 6-under 30, a birdie on the par-5 18th giving him the outright lead heading into Friday.
'I didn't start very well, a couple over through three I think,' said Elder, who is currently ranked 173rd on the money list. 'I didn't hit my first green until four and made birdie. That kind of got things going. I had some trouble on the first three holes but then turned things around. I made a bunch of birdies on the front and back after that.'
Beckman, the 2001 Southern Farm Bureau Classic winner and currently 75th on the money list, enjoyed an eagle and four birdies on the opening day of his title defense.
'I got off to a good start and made some putts,' said Beckman. 'I was trying to put some positive thoughts in my mind from a year ago. I even had a few putts that were similar to last year.'
Byrd, who outdueled Phil Mickelson and David Toms to win last weeks Buick Challenge, continued his hot play with an inward nine 31. Hes made close to $800,000 over his last three starts.
The other Jonathan, Kaye, put himself in good condition to try and better his two runner-up finishes in 2002. Seven birdies and a lone bogey left in him that gaggle of golfers at 6-under par.
Six other golfers, veteran Brad Faxon amongst them, are just two shots back at 5-under par. Another nine golfers are three off the pace, in with 4-under-par 68s.
Faxon, who fell from 30th to 31st and subsequently out of the Tour Championship following the Buick Challenge, didnt let that disappointment deter him from a solid round that saw him notch six birdies for the day.
Full-field scores from the Southern Farm Bureau Classic