Jason Day says his self-belief has returned after blitzing his way into a share of the US PGA Championship lead during an exciting start for the Australian contingent at golf's first major of 2020.
With no crowds in attendance, 2015 PGA champion Day carded a five-under-par 65 and is tied with American Brendon Todd at San Francisco's TPC Harding Park.
Four of Day's countrymen are within six shots of his lead after fellow major winner and former world No.1 Adam Scott (68), Matt Jones, Marc Leishman (70) and Cameron Smith (71) climbed into contention.
Day and Todd will begin Saturday's (AEST) second round sharing a one-shot lead over a large group at four under headlined by two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka, Germany's former PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer, two-time major winner Zach Johnson and fellow former world No.1 Justin Rose.
Tiger Woods, searching for his 16th career major, negotiated Harding Park's thick rough for a 68 to join Scott at two under.
Lathered in Deep Heat to protect his ailing back from northern California's cool temperatures, Day birdied his last hole for a brilliant bogey-free start to the event he also owns a runner-up at in 2016.
Day's 65 was the lowest opening round of his US PGA Championship career and equal-lowest overall.
"I drove it really nicely and, when I was out of position, I left myself on the right side of the fairways," Day said.
Day's hot start to the PGA Championship comes as no surprise given he posted top-10s in each of the three US PGA Tour events leading into this major. It was his first trio of consecutive top-10s on the US Tour since 2016.
The 12-time US Tour has struggled in recent years but feels ready to match it the world's best on golf's biggest stage.
"I feel like the game is slowly coming around and the confidence is coming around because I'm starting to see the results," he said.
Playing his first tournament since March, a rusty Scott mixed three birdies with three bogeys on the front side before picking up two shots coming home.
Like Day, Scott is chasing a second career major title to go with his 2013 Masters triumph.
Recent form suggests that win could come at the PGA Championship, where he has finished third and eighth in the past two editions.
"The (PGA Championship) courses have suited me the last couple years," Scott said. "They are difficult, but if you drive it well and you're solid with your irons and you can (contend). Fortunately, I still hit it long enough."
It was just the second tournament since February for four-time PGA champion Woods, but the 44-year-old dismissed any concerns of rust for the majors season as he seeks a fifth PGA Championship win.
"I felt that practice sessions (at home) have been very good," Woods said. "They have been very intense, so there was no reason why I can't (hit the ground running)."
Big-name former PGA champions Rory McIlroy (70) and world No.1 Justin Thomas (71) are also in the mix.
Rounding out the Australian contingent is Lucas Herbert (73).
Australian Associated Press