Kyle Stanley has endured a frustrating 2013-14 PGA Tour season with 11 missed cuts in 25 starts but hinted at better things to come as he surged into an early one-shot lead at the Canadian Open in Montreal on Thursday.
The 26-year-old American, whose short game has especially let him down this year, produced sparkling form with his putter as he racked up six birdies and a bogey in the opening round to shoot a five-under-par 65 on Royal Montreal's Blue Course.
Though Stanley failed to maintain momentum on his homeward nine after racing to the turn in an electrifying five-under 30, he finished a stroke in front of six players, including his compatriots Nick Watney, Justin Hicks and Troy Merritt.
South Korea's Charlie Wi and Australians Robert Allenby and Greg Chalmers also opened with 66s while American Brandt Snedeker launched his title defense with a 69.
Stanley, whose only PGA Tour victory came at the 2012 Phoenix Open, was thrilled to see significant improvement in his game around and on the greens after toiling for much of this season.
"I had some nice sand saves to keep the momentum and just kind of kept building on the round," Stanley told PGA Tour Radio. "I've struggled with my short game this year, especially with my putting, so it's nice to see the improvement there.
"It's been a pretty long year so far but I had a nice week off last week, went home to Gig Harbor (in Washington) and kind of re-charged."
Stanley, whose best finish on the 2013-14 PGA Tour was a tie for 19th at the CIMB Classic in October, made a sizzling start to his round after teeing off at the par-four 10th with three birdies in his first five holes.
He then drained putts from 20 feet at the 15th and from 23 feet at the 17th to surge to the top of the leaderboard, before offsetting a bogey at the third with a birdie at the sixth to remain at five under.
"I gave myself some opportunities and was able to make a couple of long-range putts which was nice," said Stanley. "I kind of hung in there on my second nine.
"I didn't hit it quite as well but was able to get it up and down when I needed to. It was nice to get off to a good start."
American world number seven Matt Kuchar and compatriot Jim Furyk, a twice former Canadian Open champion who is ranked 10th, were among the late starters on Thursday.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve Keating)