Mathis upstages Euro big guns

David Mathis was almost as hot as the sweltering Memphis weather in Thursday’s first round of the FedEx St Jude Classic.

David Mathis was almost as hot as the sweltering Memphis weather in Thursday’s first round of the storied FedEx St Jude Classic.

The little-known 37-year-old US journeyman, who earned his 2011 PGA Tour card by finishing in the top 25 on last year’s Nationwide Tour money list, grabbed the first round lead with a five-under-par 65 at the sizzling par-70 TPC Southwind.

Swede Robert Karlsson, beaten here by Britain’s Lee Westwood in a three-way playoff for last year’s title, opened with a 66 to end the first round a shot off the pace in a tie with Americans John Merrick, Kris Blanks, Colt Knost and Kevin Kisner.

World number two Westwood, in the meantime, has launched his title defence with a 69, salvaging a very “ordinary round” by closing with three birdies in his last four holes to finish four off the pace.

Mathis, whose best PGA Tour finish so far was his tie for eighth at last month’s New Orleans Classic, made it clear that he would not be getting ahead of himself at such an early stage of the tournament.

“I haven’t been in this position before,” he told the media after mixing six birdies with a lone bogey at the par-three eighth where he three-putted.

“I don’t feel stressed or uncomfortable in the position I’m in, but I know there’s tons of golf left.

“I’m just trying to keep poise about me … just take it for what it is, enjoy it, be thankful for a good round and try to reproduce it for the next three days.”

Karlsson, a former European number one but a PGA Tour rookie this year at the age of 41, was happy to be back at the venue where he has so far recorded his best finish on the PGA Tour.

“I do like this golf course. It’s great to be back here,” he said after carding five birdies and a bogey.

“Yesterday in the practice round I learned quite quickly that you want to stay out of the rough and play the course from tee to green. I did a pretty good job of that today.”

Only 11 days after winning his first PGA Tour title, American rookie Keegan Bradley charged into contention with a four-birdie 67.

“It was a good day,” said the 25-year-old, who has been grouped with fellow PGA Tour rookie Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela for the first two rounds.

“I had a great pairing with Johnny. It was a really fun group out there.”

two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa opened with a 68, local favourite John Daly, previously a long-time resident in Memphis, returned a 69 and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland, coming g back from an injury-enforced lay-off shot a level-par 70.

Only 32 players in the 156-strong field broke par on a trying day – and Sergio Garcia certainly wasn’t one of them. The struggling Spaniard’s roller coaster ride in golf continued with him plummeting into a pool of eight on the bottom end of the leaderboard with a 78