Bud Cauley fired an 8-under 62 to take a share of the lead along with Marco Dawson after Thursday's opening round in Sea Island, Ga. His bogey-free round featured eight birdies, including four across his final six holes, as Cauley and Dawson lead by two shots over a trio of players at 6 under that includes Boo Weekley.
Although equally impressive, Dawson's opening round was perhaps more unexpected. The 48-year-old has made only six cuts in 20 starts on Tour this year, and is still in search of his first top-50 finish of 2012. Entering the week 216th on the money list and badly in need of a high finish, Dawson birdied each of the four par-3s in his opening round on the Seaside Course. Thursday's 62 marks his first round under 70 on Tour since the opening round of the True South Classic in July.
Having recorded six top-10 finishes in 27 starts this year, Cauley is one of the main candidates for Rookie of the Year consideration, along with Blixt and Mayakoba Classic winner John Huh. The former University of Alabama standout advanced to the third event of the FedEx Cup playoffs last month, and his best finish of the year to date was a solo third at the Wyndham Championship. A win would move Cauley to the brink of the top 30 on the money list - which includes the added incentive of an invitation to Augusta next spring.
A number of players within striking distance of the top 125 on the money list started their week with a solid round Thursday as they look to secure full-time playing status for 2013. Camilo Villegas (No. 152) began with a 5-under 65, while Gary Christian (No. 127) and Richard H. Lee (No. 134) both carded 3-under 67s in the opening round. At the other end of the spectrum, No. 125 Billy Mayfair and No. 126 Kevin Chappell are in danger of missing the cut after opening with 2-over 72 and 1-over 71, respectively.
The past and (perhaps) the future of American Ryder Cup leaders are together in a large group at 5 under, as tournament host Davis Love III and David Toms - widely considered the favorite to be named U.S. Ryder Cup captain for 2014 - both fired 65 on Thursday.