May 28 (Reuters) - Australian Steven Bowditch, putting superbly, took advantage of a rain-softened layout to charge into an early two-shot lead in the opening round of the Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas, on Thursday.
The 31-year-old from New South Wales birdied five of his first nine holes on the way to a sizzling eight-under-par 62 at the TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas.
That left Bowditch two ahead of American Jimmy Walker, a fellow Texas resident who mixed seven birdies with a lone bogey to surge up the leaderboard.
Two more Americans, James Hahn and Ryan Palmer, were a further stroke back after opening with 65s.
Bowditch, whose only PGA Tour victory came at last year's Texas Open, totalled only 25 putts on Thursday as he capitalised on a fast start.
"It was really nice," the Australian told PGA Tour Radio after piling up eight birdies in a bogey-free display. "I got off to a pretty good start, made a couple of putts early and had some momentum."
Bowditch, a top junior player whose professional career temporarily was stalled as he battled depression, set the tone for his day as he recorded birdies at the first, fourth, sixth, seventh and ninth to reach the turn in five-under 30.
"I kept it in the fairway and that's a big thing out here, being so wet," he said. "I stayed aggressive, kept hitting drivers and getting them on the golf course.
"The greens are great. They are soft but you can still make some putts out there."
Masters champion, hometown favourite and world number two Jordan Spieth was among the day's late starters. (Reporting by Frank Pingue)