'I had no idea what the course record was,' acknowledged Bryant. 'I was just trying to get a three on the last hole. I had no idea that putt was for the course record.'
This is the final event on the 2005 PGA Tour season and is reserved for the top-30 players on the money list. Phil Mickelson, third on the money list, is the only eligible player not in attendance.
Defending champion Retief Goosen is alone in second place after a 6-under-par 64. Kenny Perry three-putted the last hole for a bogey, but is in third at minus-5.
Tiger Woods struggled to find fairways on Thursday, but still managed a 4-under-par 66. He is tied for fourth place with Sergio Garcia, but the No. 1 player in the world looked like he was going to fire a low round early Thursday.
Woods birdied three of his first four holes, all from inside 10 feet, then tallied back-to-back birdies at seven and eight, both from 5 feet or less.
Things went downhill from there for Woods and it all stemmed from poor bunker play. At the par-5 ninth, he knocked his second into a greenside trap and did not get up and down for the birdie, instead making par.
One hole later, Woods found another bunker, but could not save par. He fell to 4 under for the championship and with one birdie and one bogey the rest of the way, got into the clubhouse in decent shape.
'If I get those two simple up-and-downs out of the bunker ... that took the momentum out of the round,' said Woods. 'I got off to a great start. It wasn't that bad.'
Woods' round was not bad, but it was not 'Bart Bryant' good.
Bryant was 3 under par on his round as he came to the par-5 ninth. He missed an 8-footer for birdie at that hole, but got to 4 under, which gave him the lead, with a 24-foot birdie putt at the 11th.
The 42-year-old birdied the 12th to move to minus-5, then rolled in a 5-footer for birdie at No. 13. Bryant collected three birdies in a row, got to 6 under and actually grabbed a three-shot lead in the tournament.
Bryant narrowly missed a 30-foot birdie try at the 14th, but hit the shot of the round on Thursday at the par-5 15th. His hybrid-club approach stopped 7 feet from the hole and the winner of this year's Memorial rolled in the eagle putt to reach 8 under par.
'At that point, I was feeling awfully good,' admitted Bryant.
Unfortunately for him, it did not translate into any more birdies. At the 16th, Bryant nearly holed a 36-foot birdie putt, but ultimately tapped in for par.
On the 17th fairway, Bryant had a 9-iron in his hands, but pulled his approach slightly in the left rough. He had a difficult stance on a steep hill, but that hardly mattered. Bryant almost holed the chip, but settled for a par with the difficult, par-3 18th to go.
Bryant used the same hybrid club that worked so well on 15 at the 235-yard, par-3. He missed a 30-footer, holed out from 3 feet, then walked off with a course record and the first-round lead.
'I wasn't expecting to shoot 8 under, and I don't think anybody really expects to shoot 8 under ever on a tour quality golf course,' said Bryant. 'It just sort of happens when you're out there. Somebody was going to go low today. Luckily it was me.'
Goosen got out of the gate on Thursday with a pair of pars, but picked up momentum with a 25-foot birdie putt at the third. He made an even longer birdie try at four and polished off his third straight birdie with an 8-footer at five.
The two-time U.S. Open champion mixed three birdies and two bogeys over his next five holes. Goosen rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt at the 13th and a 9-footer at 14 to get closest to Bryant's lead.
'I hit it pretty well out there today,' said Goosen, who overcame a four-shot deficit on Sunday last year to win. 'I was always up there putting for birdie, which was nice. Obviously, I have a good feel for the greens around here.'
Charles Howell III, Scott Verplank and Tim Clark all posted rounds of 3-under-par 67 on Thursday and are tied for sixth place. Ben Crane and Davis Love III are knotted in ninth place at minus-2.
Singh, the No. 2 player in the world, and Chris DiMarco are the only other players under par. The pair shares 11th place at 1-under-par 69.