Séamus Power extended his bogey-free run to 72 holes as he equalled his career-low with a seven-under 63 to lie just two shots off the lead in the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Playing aggressively as he chases that second PGA Tour win and a Masters debut, the West Waterford man (34) continued his sensational run of form at the 7,025-yard Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, knocking in seven birdies, including five in six holes mid-round.
As Graeme McDowell had 33 putts in a level par 70 to share 100th place in his first start this year, the Tooraneena man finds himself tied for fourth, just two shots behind defending champion Kevin Na, whose nine-under 61 gave him a one-shot lead over Russell Henley and veteran Jim Furyk.
Power is ranked 63rd in the world, but while the top 50 on March 28 make it to Augusta National, he can secure that coveted Masters debut with a win and admits he can now afford to be more aggressive as he chases it down.
"It definitely changes, especially knowing you have the exemption for a couple of years," he said of the freedom he enjoys now that he's a PGA Tour winner.
"You are certainly showing up planning on being a little more aggressive, maybe. You are always trying to win, but you are really all out to win with the extra exemption. So it's a good start today, and hopefully I can keep it up."
Starting on the back nine in near windless conditions on a course protected by thick rough, Power opened with a four par before following five birdies in his next six holes with two more birdies.
While he hit just six fairways, he made a 45 footer for a birdie at the 14th, hit a wedge close at the 15th and made a 13 footer at the 16th before hitting a spectacular flop shot stone dead from deep Bermuda at the par-five 18th to turn in 31.
With momentum on his side, he brushed in a 25 footer for a birdie at the first before making back to back birdies at the fifth and sixth — a 132-yard wedge to three feet followed by a smooth 11 footer after a friendly kick off the apron.
He did well to par the eighth, gouging his approach out of thick rough to 50 feet but couldn't get up and down for a closing birdie four at the short, par-five ninth (496 yards) after driving into deep rough just six inches off the fairway.
"Everything was kind of in decent order," said Power, who felt the benefit of knocking the rust off his game with his tie for 15th in the Sentry Tournament of Champions last week.
"Wouldn't mind hitting maybe a couple of extra fairways, but overall it was pretty good. Made some nice putts here and there. Hit some nice wedge shots close, and overall nice and solid."
He was pleased to take advantage of the windless conditions but knows he must keep his foot on the gas if he's to win his first 500-point PGA TOUR event.
"It's bizarre to see it so calm," said the Waterford man who has missed the cut in his last two visits to the Waialae despite his liking for the Seth Raynor design.
"I certainly don't remember that the years I played it. You want to be aggressive, but the fairways are starting to firm up a little bit. A couple times, like on nine, my last hole, you hit a good shot and it runs into very thick rough. It's certainly a tradeoff, but you know, if you can get it in the fairway, you can be aggressive with the wind conditions."
As for thoughts of winning, he knows he can't afford to let up.
"The PGA Tour is tough," he said. "If you want to win, you have to have four good rounds. That's the mentality you have to go in. Nice start and puts me in a good position, but there's a long ways to go. I need to have three more good rounds to have a chance on Sunday."