Justin Rose hit the ground running as golf returned from a three-month hiatus with the Charles Schwab Challenge on Thursday.

Rose shares the lead with Harold Varner III in Fort Worth, Texas, with both men shooting blemish-free rounds of 63 in the first big tournament since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sport.

World number 14 Rose, starting on the back nine, birdied four of the his first seven holes and then picked up shots on each of the first three holes after making the turn.

American Varner holed an 11-foot putt at the 18th to also finish on seven under. 

The pair hold a one-shot lead over Venezuelan Jhonattan Vegas, Mexico's Abraham Ancer and Americans Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas.


Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell carded a one-under 69, which featured birdies on holes three, six and eight, and bogeys on the second and fourth holes.  Phil Mickelson - fresh from his challenge matches with Tiger Woods during the shutdown - also shot 69 for a share of 57th place.

Open champion Shane Lowry's one-over 71 saw the Clara man suffer bogeys on the third and 16th holes, but he took just two strokes at the par-three eighth. 

Dustin Johnson also finished on 71, carding four bogeys in a rusty round.

World number one Rory McIlroy was among the later starters at Fort Worth and shot a round of two under par, which was good enough for a share of 39th place. 

McIlroy look set to go low after birdies on the first, eighth and ninth holes, and his solitary bogey on six, but finished with nine consecutive pars.

The event is the first on the PGA Tour since the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Florida in early March, and has drawn a star-studded field to Texas, with 16 of the world top 20 in action over the weekend.

"It felt quite subdued out there for sure," Rose said of playing without fans cheering on the impressive field, which included the top five golfers in the world rankings.

"It kind of feels like a competitive practice round. But I think we all know what's on the line. We all know what we're playing for."

Everyone in the field underwent mandatory Covid-19 testing prior to teeing off as the tour ended its longest unscheduled break from competition since World War Two.

"Just being out here is a success, to be honest with you, getting started," said American Ryan Palmer, who hit the day's opening tee shot.

"I don't see anything holding us back moving forward. I think today was the biggest day, just getting this first day off."

Palmer (72) began his round about two hours before the 8:46 a.m. (2.46 pm Irish time) tee time was left vacant as golfers stopped play to observe a moment of silence to honor George Floyd, the black man who died last month in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck, sparking widespread protests.

It was a solemn scene as golfers and caddies stood with their heads bowed during a time slot selected to reflect how long - 8 minutes and 46 seconds - the officer's knee was on Floyd's neck.

Varner, who is among only a handful of black players on the tour, called the moment of silence "pretty cool," a sentiment echoed by other players.

Varner has long been an advocate for greater racial diversity in the pro game but said right now his focus is on trying to win his first PGA Tour event.

"The reason I have a platform is because I'm really good at golf," the 29-year-old told reporters. "I just need to focus on that."