CALGARY — Michael Bradley wasn't aware that he tied the course record at Canyon Meadows Golf and Country Club when he birdied the par 5, 18th hole on Friday. But it has him feeling pretty good.
Bradley's 9-under 61 was the best round of his PGA Tour Champions career and it put him alone atop the Shaw Charity Classic leaderboard through one round of play.
"I'm excited I shot 61," said the 53-year-old golfer from Largo, Fla., who now shares the course record with 2014 Shaw Charity Classic champion Fred Couples and Miguel Angel Jimenez. "I didn't even realize it, but I've played poorly the last few months and I haven't had a lot of confidence.
"I've got no business shooting 61. I'm just being honest. I think 70 or 71 has been the lowest round I've had in a number of tournaments. Maybe I can catch lighting in a bottle and try to get some confidence back."
Bradley had 10 birdies and just one bogey during his round on the par 70, 7,086-yard layout to put him one shot ahead of Steve Flesch heading into the second day of action during the 54-hole event that concludes on Sunday.
"I struggled with the driver today," Bradley said. "I hit some good iron shots today and I made a number of putts. I've driven the ball extremely poorly the last few months. Fairways are firm, so I can kind of get away with it on a number of the holes."
Flesch, who started his round on the back nine, also had a chance to tie the course record, but he wasn't able to sink an eight-foot birdie putt on the par 3, ninth hole.
"Getting off to a great start in the first round has kind of been my nemesis this year," said Flesch, whose round of 8-under 62 included an eagle on the par 5, 11th hole.
"Obviously 8 under is a great score and it's my low of the season (and of his PGA Tour Champions career), so I'm excited, but I'm not surprised because I've been playing better than my scores have been reflecting."
Tom Byrum is alone in third after carding a round of 7-under 63, which included an eagle on the par 5, 18th hole.
David Morland IV, who's originally from Aurora, Ont., finished as the low Canadian in a tie for fourth at 6 under with a group of golfers that includes two-time defending champion Scott McCarron.
"You don't win or lose the golf tournament on the first day, you just try to get yourself into contention," said Morland, who shot 66 at Elbow Springs Golf Club on Tuesday to earn one of four qualifying spots into the annual event.
Morland got hot on the back nine with four straight birdies before draining another long putt from just off the 17th green to get to 6 under.
"Then the bomb on 17, that was just a bonus," said Morland, who now resides in Palm Coast, Fla. "I think my caddie said it was like 97 feet. Wasn't expecting to make that one, but glad it went in."
Also in the logjam of players at 6 under are Dan Forsman, Wes Short Jr., Billy Andrade, Mark Brooks, Tim Petrovic and Retief Goosen.
Although he started his round with five straight birdies and was 9 under through 14 holes of play, Forsman bogeyed three of his final four holes to fall three shots behind Bradley.
"I don't look behind me because I can see the stampede coming," said Forsman. "I'm 61. I'm trying to keep this career alive and days like today help me realize I still have some game and I want to keep playing."
Stephen Ames, who is a Canadian Golf Hall of Fame member and former Calgary resident now living in Turks and Caicos, finished Friday's round in a tie for 21st with 10 other golfers.
Laurence Heinen, The Canadian Press