CARMEL, Ind. (AP) — Bo Van Pelt knows how to play golf in his home state.
Three days after he was left off the U.S. Ryder Cup team, the 37-year-old Van Pelt shot an 8-under 64 in the first round of the BMW Championship and was tied with three others for the lead.
Playing his first round as a professional in Indiana, Van Pelt appeared to savor every moment with the family and friends who followed him around Crooked Stick. The crowd increased as his scores dropped.
"I've waited 13 years to come back and play a professional tournament here, so it's nice not to shoot 80 or something," said Van Pelt, who grew up in Richmond, about 85 miles east of the tournament site. "Never had a chance to play in Indiana before, it's a big deal for me. I want to play well."
Dressed in gray slacks, an Indiana red polo shirt with gray stripes and a white hat bearing the name of the real estate company where his sister works, Van Pelt took advantage of an uncommonly tame course. Wednesday's heavy rain softened the greens, and the average score was 69.47.
Van Pelt birdied Nos. 1, 2, 4, 7 and 9 and made the turn in 31. It was the best score on the front side all day.
"Stay aggressive, that's what I kept telling myself as I was making birdies early, just to keep going," Van Pelt said. "I knew if it seemed like it was easy playing for me, it was probably playing easy for anybody."
Van Pelt played with U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, who also made eight birdies and no bogeys for a 64. Rory McIlroy and Graham DeLaet also were tied for the lead.
Van Pelt and Simpson will play together again Friday morning.
"I didn't realize he was from here until the first tee when I heard all the people erupt," said Simpson, who lives in North Carolina. "I get two home events myself and I know what it feels like to play well. He had a great day."
Van Pelt felt it should have been better. He missed birdie chances from inside 10 feet on Nos. 13, 14 and 15 before closing the round with a birdie on the 457-yard, par-4 18th.
With Van Pelt (No. 20) almost assured of one of the 30 spots in the FedEx Cup finale at Atlanta, there's only one thing that would make this weekend more memorable: A win in front of the home-state fans.
And Van Pelt knows it will take three more days like Thursday to accomplish that feat.
"There's so many guys playing well that are in this tournament, guys like Rory and Dustin (Johnson) and Tiger (Woods), guys that hit it a long way, that this golf course is going to set up good for them," Van Pelt said. "I thought 20-under was probably about right (to win it)."
The other Indiana golfer didn't fare nearly as well.
Indiana University graduate Jeff Overton finished with a 2-over 74 and is tied for 62nd.
SCORING HELP: Wet weather is forcing some significant changes to the tourney format.
Wednesday's heavy rain created excessively muddy conditions, so tourney officials announced Thursday morning that players would be permitted to clean their balls between the tee box and greens, a move players overwhelmingly endorsed.