Rickie Fowler sets pace at Houston Open

American Rickie Fowler did not drop a shot throughout Thursday's opening round as he earned a one-stroke lead in Texas.

Rickie Fowler made a fine and flawless start at the Houston Open after carding an 8-under-par 64.

The 28-year-old American did not drop a shot throughout Thursday's opening round as he earned a one-stroke lead in Texas.

The four-time PGA Tour winner —who is gearing up for the upcoming Masters —teed off on the back nine and opened with a birdie.

"I hit some good shots and made a couple of good putts," Fowler said. "Just trying to stay away from making mistakes and getting in bad positions, because water is definitely in play on a lot of holes. "You don’t want to be short sided. That’s where I feel like my caddie Joe (Skovron) and I did a good job of managing our way around."

Fowler —seeking his first major —then birdied three consecutive holes, starting from the 12th, before gaining shots at the 16th, third, fourth and ninth following the turn after sitting out the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play last week.

"The reason last week that I wanted to be off, get some down-time rest and spend time with friends," Fowler said. "I just don't play four in a row, and Bay Hill is a place that I like to play. Unfortunately, I had to miss it last year, but I wasn't going to miss it this year."

Sung Kang is Fowler's nearest rival at 7 under heading into Friday's second round at the Golf Club of Houston.

A shot back are Stewart Cink, Jhonattan Vegas and Kyle Stanley.

"I gave myself a lot of great opportunities," Vegas said. "Kept myself in play from the tees. I did exactly what I had in mind. So, it was good to have some of those rounds."

Justin Rose is among seven players in a share of sixth position at 5 under, while former world No. 1 Adam Scott is a stroke behind.

Two-time major champion Jordan Spieth ended the day at 3 under.

Looking to put his nightmare Masters capitulation behind him, Spieth had five birdies and two bogeys for a 69.

Meanwhile, reigning champion Jim Herman opened his title defense with a disappointing 74.

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