The host Glenmaura National Golf Club, the fourth most difficult layout on last year's schedule, continued to vex the players this time around. Thursday's scoring average on the par-70 course soared to 73.490, the highest average on the tour this season.
'This golf course is tough. I think it's one of the top-10 courses on either tour,' said Gibson, a two-time Buy.com winner who spent eight seasons on the PGA Tour. 'You've got to respect every hole. There are no gimmes anywhere. There are no holes where you can stand out there and let your guard down.'
Hill, who started on the back nine first, birdied the 14th but gave two strokes back after he flew the green at the 16th. He rebounded from the double-bogey with a birdie at 18, then returned to red numbers with a birdie at the first.
Although he dropped another shot at the third, Hill closed with three birdies over the final five holes for a one-stroke lead.
'I'm tickled at the way I played today,' said Hill, a Buy.com Tour rookie who has two top-10 finishes in eight starts in 2001. 'I putted the ball well. For me, really well.'
Hill, ranked 60th on the tour in putting, needed only 26 strokes with the flat stick in round one.
Gibson, the runner-up in Richmond two weeks ago, was pleased with his round despite a double-bogey of his own.
'I played excellent save for one bad drive, one hiccup,' said Gibson, who looks to be back on track after missing the cut in the first five events of the year. 'You really have to trust yourself out here especially with the wind, which tends to swirl on you.'
The winds gusted up to 25 miles per hour on Thursday.
Jim McGovern, the winner of the 1993 Houston Open on the PGA Tour, is among 10 players tied at one-under-par 69.
'This is a hard golf course,' he said. 'With no wind it's a hard course. There is no let up anywhere. Par is a good score on every hole.'