Russell Knox makes a strong start to Classic challenge

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SCOTLAND’S Russell Knox led the European challenge as Charlie Wi edged into a one-shot lead at the end of the first round of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in Florida.

Inverness exile Knox opened with a six-under 66 on the Palm course to sit tied for fourth, two shots behind Wi, whose effort featured eight birdies, including the final two holes, two bogeys and was highlighted by a 15-foot eagle putt at the par-5 seventh.

That put Wi, who has not won in 183 PGA Tour starts, a stroke clear of America’s Tommy Gainey and Camilo Villegas, of Colombia. The top 12, all at five-under or better, each played their opening round on the Palm course.

Henrik Stenson, of Sweden, and American Charles Howell on four- under were among the best of those who played the Magnolia course.

“The Palm course is a course where you need to score,” leader Wi told “All the par-5s are reachable so I felt like I took advantage of them.”

On his eagle, he added: “When I made [that], I felt like I had something special going today.”

With players battling to be in the top 125 on the money list come Sunday to keep their tour card, Villegas was among the big winners. The Colombian started the day 150th but will make the grade if he keeps up his current position.