Kurt Barnes bogeyed his last hole to fall out of a tie for the lead. He shares second place with Garrett Willis, Arjun Atwal, Bill Lunde, Jon Turcott and Matt Bettencourt.
Putnam broke into red figures at the par-5 second. He reached the fringe with his second, chipped to a foot and tapped in for the birdie. His next birdie came at the par-4 sixth and he closed his front nine with a four- footer for birdie at No. 9.
Putnam parred his first five holes on the second nine, but went on a run at the end of his round that got him sole possession of the lead.
At the par-4, 293-yard 15th, Putnam got to the front bunker off the tee with a three-wood. Putnam blasted out to 10 feet and sank the birdie opportunity.
He rolled in another 10-foot birdie putt at 16 and made it three in a row with a seven-foot birdie putt at the 134-yard, par-three 17th. Putnam parred his last to take the first-round lead.
'I didn't make a putt over 12 feet, but I made a lot of putts between eight and 12 feet,' said Putnam. 'For me, that's exciting if I can make some of those.'
Putnam ranks 54th on the Nationwide Tour money list and, with the season winding down, needs a big finish if he is to get into the top 25 and get back to the PGA TOUR.
'I need a win. I need a win bad, I'm not going to lie,' said Putnam, who played the PGA TOUR last year. 'It's nice to get off to a good start. I'm sure four of these rounds will do it.'