Seamus Power's timing was impeccable as he opened with a season's best 64 in his last gasp battle to keep his PGA Tour card at the $6m Wyndham Championship
The West Waterford star (32) finished with back-to-back birdies at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro for his lowest round of the season and the joint lowest of his PGA Tour career.
Ranked 144th in the FedEx Cup standings, he was projected to move up to 127th with only the top 125 qualifying for the first Playoff event next week. In other worse, he was is one stroke shy of this target. Scores
He will need a top-five finish, or around 78 FedExCup points, to keep his card or face a battle for survival in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals over the next three weeks, where the top 75 from the second tier tour and the players ranked from 126th to 200th on the PGA Tour will fight it out for just 25 cards.
Power will have his sights set on a maiden win and a two-year exemption after an impressive bogey-free round — his lowest since his seven-under 64 in 2017 Barbasol Championship — left him tied in a nine-way tie for seventh on six-under.
He was just two strokes behind South Korean duo Sungjae Im (21), and Byeong Hun An (27), who shot eight-under 62s to lead by a stroke from Mackenzie Hughes, Rory Sabbatini, Patrick Rodgers and Johnson Wagner with Power tied with the likes of Webb Simpson, defending champion Brandt Snedeker and Jordan Spieth.
The Waterford man got off to the dream start, chipping in from 20 yards for birdie at the 10th — the first of five successful scrambles from five attempts.
He then eagled the 552-yard 15th from 30 feet and made a 15 footer for another birdie at the 17th to turn in 31.
After starting for home with seven straight pars, he hit a 100-yard approach to two feet at the eighth before slotting home a 26 footer at the 404-yard ninth to move inside the top 125 in his race for his card.
He was helped by soft conditions that allowed the field to prefer their lies, but he had to work hard at times and made up for two birdie misses inside eight feet at the 13th and 18th with eight single putts.
Pádraig Harrington found his scoring touch down the stretch and birdied three of his last six holes to share 44th after a two-under 68.
It was also a good day for the Irish at the Challenge Tour's Vierumäki Finnish Challenge where Mount Juliet's Gavin Moynihan (24) posted a bogey-free, four-under 68 to share 10th place. Scores
He was five shots behind the Netherlands' Darius Van Driel with Tullamore's Stuart Grehan (26) joint 23rd after a six-birdie 69.
Portmarnock Links' Robin Dawson (23) and Ardglass' Cormac Sharvin (26) signed for two-under 70s to share 35th but Bangor's Daniel Peacock withdrew following a 79.
Van Driel (30) made nine birdies and an eagle in a nine-under 63 to lead by three shots from South African Bryce Easton, Spain's Ivan Cantero Gutierrez and Sweden's Rikard Karlberg.
On the over 50s circuit, Paul McGinley (52) confessed that it was "a tough day" at the London Golf Club for the Staysure PGA Seniors following the death of former Ryder Cup player Gordon Brand Jnr (60) overnight. Scores
An emotional minute's silence was held in his honour on the tenth tee at 12:35 when he would have teed off.
"Junior was here practising to play this event, and I had the usual craic with him a few hours before he passed," McGinley tweeted after a three-under 69 left him joint 11th, four adrift of Australian David McKenzie. "Life way too short."
Mark McNulty was joint 28th after a 71 with Philip Walton and Brendan McGovern 55th after 73 and Des Smyth 70th after a 75.
In the AIG Women's British Open at Woburn, South Africa's Ashleigh Buhai (30) shot a seven-under-par 65 around the Marquess' Course to lead by a shot from Japan's Hinako Shibuno and American Danielle Kang.
Woburn's Charley Hull shrugged off first tee nerves at her home course to shoot 67 and share fourth with Korea's Sung Hyun Park, Thailand's Moriya Jutanugarn and American Megan Khang on five-under. Scores