By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LAKE FOREST, Illinois, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Red-hot Brandt Snedeker piled up a PGA Tour season-best seven consecutive birdies on the way to an early one-shot lead in Thursday's opening round of the BMW Championship.
The fast-talking American fired a flawless eight-under-par 63 despite tricky, gusting conditions at Conway Farms Golf Club to seize control of the third of the PGA Tour's four lucrative FedExCup playoff events.
Helped by a 40-foot putt which he sank from the back fringe of the green at the par-three 17th, his eighth hole of the day, Snedeker reeled off seven consecutive birdies from the 13th to rocket to the top of the leaderboard.
Compatriot Zach Johnson opened with a seven-birdie 64 and world number one Tiger Woods shot a 66 to end the day level with fellow American Steve Stricker and South African Charl Schwartzel but Snedeker commanded the spotlight.
"It was one of those days where everything seemed to go right in the middle of the round," Snedeker, the reigning FedExCup champion, told reporters after totalling only 22 putts in an eight-birdie display.
"Got off to kind of a slow start and made a great birdie from off the green on 13 that got everything moving in the right direction. To roll off seven birdies in a row kind of came out of nowhere. I wasn't expecting it."
Woods, seeking his sixth PGA Tour victory this season, was not in the best of moods after failing to birdie any of the three par-fives.
"I'm not exactly real happy," said the 14-times major winner, who mixed seven birdies with two bogeys. "I certainly wasted a lot of shots out there today. I missed three short ones (putts) and played the par-fives stupendously.
"One of those days. I played well, and I just didn't get much out of that round."
Seventy players have qualified for the elite BMW Championship, the penultimate playoff event.
Of the 30 who advance to next week's season-ending Tour Championship, any of the top five would automatically clinch FedExCup honours and a staggering $10 million bonus with victory in Atlanta. (Editing by Frank Pingue)