(REUTERS) - American golfer Nick Watney has never missed out on the FedExCup play-offs and he put himself in good position to maintain that record after charging into the first-round lead at the Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nevada on Thursday.
Watney, who is on the cusp of qualifying for the PGA Tour's lucrative season finale, piled up nine birdies to total 18 points at Montreux Golf & Country Club in the only event on the US circuit which uses the Modified Stableford scoring system.
"I do like the course," California native Watney, who totalled only 23 putts, told Golf Channel after carding a flawless nine-under-par 63. "I love this part of the country. And 23 putts, that's probably my best by five for the season. I'll take it."
Australian Geoff Ogilvy and New Zealand's Tim Wilkinson were joint second on 16 points with Scotland's Martin Laird and American Chad Campbell next best, on 13.
Under the scoring system, points are awarded on each hole for being under par, with birdies earning a player two points and eagles five. A bogey costs a player one point, double bogeys and worse three points. No points are won or lost with par.
Watney is 124th in the FedExCup points standings and needs to remain in the top 125 after the final three weeks of the PGA Tour's regular season to book his place in the play-offs opener, the Aug 21-24 Barclays tournament.
Normally he would be competing this week in the elite WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio but, with his world ranking having slipped to 80th, he failed to qualify for that 76-man event for the first time since 2008.
"I hate to miss a World Golf Championships (WGC) event but I'm here now," said the 33-year-old American, who won the biggest title of his career at the 2011 WGC-Cadillac Championship. "I'll just keep doing my job and see where I end up."
Former US Open champion Ogilvy made eight birdies on the way to a bogey-free 64 that included a tally of just 26 putts.
"I played well," said the Australian, a seven-times winner on the PGA Tour. "Eight birdies is the most I've had for a long time.
"I hit the ball really well, and then I actually had a few short ones I didn't make. But I did make a couple bonus long ones."